The construction of public transportation networks has a profound impact on urban development. Such projects must first undergo an evaluation of route priorities based on the entire network, comprehensive planning and organization, environmental impact assessments and changes to urban planning. Proposals are then submitted to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the National Development Council for review before approval by the Executive Yuan.
The basic network design must then pass a review by the Executive Yuan’s Public Construction Commission before bidding can begin to produce detailed designs. Before construction can begin, a traffic maintenance plan must be completed and reviewed by the commission.
The pre-construction process can take three to five years, and all the agencies consider ways to increase the benefits and reduce the consequences of the plan.
For example, the first phase of construction on the Kaohsiung Light Rail Transit involved stations C1 to C14 along the coast, which connected major landmarks in Kaohsiung’s port area, such as the Kaohsiung Exhibition Center, the Maritime Cultural and Popular Music Center, the Kaohsiung Port Terminal, the Kaohsiung Main Public Library and the international cruise ship economic zone.
The second phase, stations C15 to C37, which is still under construction, would see trams driving through downtown Kaohsiung, connecting tourist spots such as the Pier-2 Art Center, Hamasen, Shoushan Zoo, Chaishan Park and the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.
The trams are to connect National Sun Yat-sen University, National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, Kaohsiung Industrial High School, St Dominic Catholic High School and Shu-Te Home Economics and Commercial High School, as well as medical centers, including Kaohsiung Municipal United Hospital, Kaohsiung Municipal Min-Sheng Hospital and Kaohsiung Municipal Kai-Syuan Psychiatric Hospital.
They will also run close to the Kaohsiung Costco, while EDA Group is planning to build a mall in the area.
Along with the high-speed rail’s Zuoying Station, several rail links and bus terminals, the municipality will have constructed a complete transportation network in the urban area.
In other countries, urban characteristics are often integrated into light-rail systems, making them a wonderful “moving landmark.” Such user-friendly, non-polluting and innovative trams could help create a modern international urban image and give Kaohsiung a new look.
In March 2001, the Kaohsiung City Government completed a proposal to turn the circular line into a light-rail system, gaining Cabinet approval in January 2004. After adjustments, the city in January 2013 issued contracts for the first stage of the line. It began operations in November.
The government issued contracts for the second stage in August 2016. That stage is to be completed by the end of this year.
However, some residents along Meishuguan and Dashun roads have opposed construction of surface infrastructure over concern that traffic flow would be affected. Without making a comprehensive assessment, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) announced the suspension of the second phase, despite NT$10 billion (US$324 million) being spent over 10 years on planning and reviews.
The high-speed railway has already hurt Kaohsiung, as it has made Taipei more attractive to Kaohsiung residents. Canceling construction of the second stage would hurt the city further.
Wu Yei-long is former director-general of the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit Bureau.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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