Just a block away from the hustle and bustle of the Taipei streets, the passenger vessel, the Blue Sky sat silently moored at the Da Dao Cheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭) by the Tamsui River (淡水河).
\nTraffic noise was faint at the other side of the riverbank. The ticket stand stood unused. Only residents living nearby come to the much-neglected wharf for a walk at sunset. The Blue Sky had no passengers, no crew, no captain.
\nOn Friday, however, the bulky, white vessel revved up its engine and scythed its way through the calm water. Lin Tse-ying, (林志盈), commissioner of Taipei City Government's department of transportation, stood by the Blue Sky and welcomed the first group of passengers.
\n"The Blue Sky will begin her maiden voyage from the Da Dao Cheng Wharf to the Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf," Lin said, while reporters roamed around the area.
\nBecause of Fisherman's Wharf's recent rise in popularity, the route between these two wharfs is the busiest section of the so-called Taipei Blue Highway, a local tourism project the Taipei City Government launched on the Tamsui River to promote "river culture" in the Taipei basin.
\nThe Blue Highway was meant to blaze new roads for Taipei's leisure industry. Among the tourism projects proposed by Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) when he sought re-election two years ago, the Taipei Blue Highway is the only one to be realized.
\nAfter city government opened up the Keelung River (基隆河) and Tamsui River waterways last year, the docks became packed with citizens eager for a leisurely cruise on the weekends. But the wave of popularity soon faded. This summer, the route between the Keelung River's Dajia Riverside Park (大佳河濱公園) to Tamsui River's Guandu Wharf (關渡碼頭) attracted only a few dozen visitors.
\nThe costly maintenance of the Blue Highway also dims the its future prospects. Some Taipei City counselors doubted how the government could afford to maintain waterway while the city's coffers were running empty. The Taipei City Government allotted nearly NT$300 million to repair riverbanks damaged by Typhoon Nari last month, and also to clean garbage floating in the river.
\nDuring a meeting in Taipei City Council last month, DPP Counselor Chou Wei-yu (
PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES
PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES
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