Mon, Nov 17, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet may ban gum on MRT system

PATERNALISM Proposed legal changes would take a page from Singapore and ban the chewing of gum on Taipei's MRT

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Gum chewers beware. The Cabinet plans to adopt Singapore-style rules for the mass rapid transit (MRT) system.

The Executive Yuan intends to pass draft amendments to the MRT Law (大眾捷運法) on Wednesday that would make it illegal to chew gum on the trains and is also looking at creating a trolley system for Kaohsiung.

Currently, a fine of between NT$1,500 and NT$7,500 is imposed on MRT passengers who dispose of their gum improperly or who spit, chew betel nut, litter or discard cigarettes.

The new regulations would impose the same fine on those caught merely chewing the gum.

Chen Ron (陳榮), a 43-year-old building superintendent, said the regulation is simply too harsh.

"Why don't they send them to sit in on one those courses that traffic violators are required to attend? It makes more sense to me," he said.

Wu Chin-fa (吳金發), 50, however, said that the proposed punishment seems fair.

"Although gum-chewers might find it inconvenient, it's for the best of other people and the overall environment of the system," he said.

The Cabinet is also looking at making Kaohsiung City the San Francisco of Taiwan.

If approved by the Cabinet, NT$12.5 billion would be spent on a 10-year project to build the nation's first trolley system in the city.

According to a Cabinet official who asked not to be named, a trolley system costs less to build than an MRT system and is more environmentally friendly.

"This form of transport allows passengers to travel around town quietly, smoothly and to reach the city's central pedestrian areas," he said. "In addition, it doesn't spew out noxious fumes over pedestrians and runs so frequently that you don't need a timetable."

While construction of a 17km trolley system in Kaohsiung is estimated to cost NT$12.5 billion, the official said an MRT system of the same length built above ground might cost over NT$49 billion.

If approved by the Cabinet, construction would begin later this year and would be finished by 2012.

Under the plan, the trolley would run along the Taiwan Railway Administration's Linkung line, which is currently used to transport commodities from Kaohsiung Harbor to the railway depot.

The route circles the city along Linkung Road on the eastern section and Kaishuan Fourth Road, Chengkong Road, Wufu Road, Chihhsien Road and Hohsi Road on the western segment.

Since the system would weave through pedestrian areas, traffic lights would be installed to ensure the trolley's right of way and avoid traffic congestion.

"The line is mostly segregated from other traffic and passengers get on and off at stations rather than in the street," the official said.

Although the trolley system has not yet been built, motorists or pedestrians found running the system's traffic lights and obstructing traffic would be punished.

Also included in the amendments to the MRT Law, those caught running traffic lights along the rail system and endangering the life of themselves or others or disturbing traffic would receive a fine of between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000.

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