Sat, Feb 06, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Ko blames traffic as support rating falls

ALL TIED UP:The city government is mulling imposing a congestion fee and a high-occupancy vehicle scheme, in an effort to ease traffic congestion in Neihu District

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Scooters and cars are stuck in a traffic jam in Taipei yesterday as workers build a bicycle lane.

Photo: Lin Cheng-kun, Taipei Times

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) approval ratings have dipped below 50 percent, a survey by the Chinese-language China Times showed, with Ko attributing the fall to public complaints about traffic congestion because of the city’s bicycle lane construction project.

The results released on Thursday showed that 47.7 percent of respondents were satisfied with Ko’s governance, while 30.1 percent said otherwise.

The figures represented a major fall in the mayor’s approval rating compared with polls conducted by the city’s Research, Development and Evaluation Commission in December, in which he garnered a satisfaction rating of 69.3 percent.

Asked to comment on his sliding ratings, Ko said: “I think this is due to the recent traffic situation.”

Asked if he would make changes to his governance style, Ko said that his administration would, in addition to reflecting on its mistakes, compile a list of items that might have contributed to the recent traffic congestion and give priority to problems that can be resolved in the short term.

“Sometimes you stride fearlessly forward. Other times you need to turn around and make amends. I think this will take some time,” Ko said.

During a radio interview a day earlier, the mayor admitted that the city’s “three latitudinal, three longitudinal” bicycle network project has “hit a snag” because of the work being carried out simultaneously at various locations.

The media and some residents have cited the constructions as a factor behind heavy traffic jams since late last month.

Taipei Department of Transportation Commissioner Chung Hui-yu (鍾慧諭) said that the department is mulling levying “congestion charges” on vehicles entering Neihu District (內湖) during rush hours.

The fees would likely be charged through a device similar to those used in the eTag toll system, she said.

The policy is being considered, along with a proposed high occupancy scheme that would require vehicles in the district to carry at least two passengers.

Ko said the congestion fee has to be approved by the city council and is unlikely to be implemented soon.

Department division chief Huang Hui-ju (黃惠如) said that an average of 28,000 vehicles enter Neihu every day during the morning peak hours from 7am to 9am.

More than 70 percent of these vehicles do not carry any passengers, Huang said.

Another likely contributing factor to Neihu’s frequent traffic jams is parking convenience, with many businesses in the area providing free parking spaces for their employees, she said.

Huang added that 48 percent of car parking spaces and 66 percent of scooter parking spaces in the district are free.

In related news, the department yesterday unveiled plans to alleviate potential traffic congestion caused by the demolition of an onramp connected to the Zhongxiao Bridge (忠孝橋), which is scheduled to take place between tomorrow and Sunday next week.

Department division chief Chang Sheng-wan (張生萬) said the project’s contractor would deploy personnel to hold up placards at nine locations in Sanchong (三重) and 10 other locations in New Taipei City to inform drivers about the demolition and advise them to take detours.

Chang said that if congestion in Sanchong spans 3km, vehicles taking the bridge would be barred from accessing Zhongxiao W Road and would be directed to the ramp leading to Huanhe Expressway.

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