Sat, Feb 11, 2006 - Page 2 News List

ETC off to a chaotic start

WHY THE RUSH?The new Electronic Toll Collection system caused major disruptions to traffic, leading many to wonder whether it was ready for operation

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The official launch of the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system almost paralyzed rush-hour traffic yesterday, with two lanes, both north and south-bound, allocated exclusively to users of the new system.

Traffic was snarled-up in the manual toll-collection lanes as few drivers made use of the ETC system.

Although the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau attempted to remind drivers of the new system's implementation by placing four signs within 2km of the toll booths, many drivers still found themselves in the wrong lane and, as a result, would face a fine of NT$3,000 (US$93).

Truck drivers who inadvertently drove into the ETC lanes were even seen backing their vehicles into the traffic flow.

Within half an hour of the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau implementing the ETC system at 2:00pm, drivers began to report heavy traffic snarl-ups at the Taishan toll booths.

The chaos has caused many to question why the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) insisted on implementing the ETC system yesterday, regardless of opposition from drivers and legislators.

"Go ask [former MOTC minister] Lin Ling-san (林陵三)," said current MOTC Minister Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪).

Legislators complained that buyers of the on-board units (OBU) that must be fitted to vehicles in order to use the ETC system were not timeously informed of the discounts that were available, and said that the NT$3,000 fine levied against those driving into ETC lanes by mistake was too harsh and has no legal basis.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Chen-nan (李鎮楠) said that a driver had complained to him because he had already stored NT$3,000 on his OBU card before the freeway bureau announced that a 5 percent discount would be offered to drivers making NT$4,000 deposits on their cards.

Lee asked the freeway bureau to consider offering all OBU users a 10 percent toll discount and suggested that drivers refrain from using OBUs for now.

People First Party (PFP) Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) yesterday described the whole ETC system, and especially the NT$3,000 fines, as illegitimate.

Liu said that drivers should not be made to feel that they are obliged to spend NT$1,380 to install an OBU just so that they can pay the NT$40 highway toll. He added that current transportation laws do not allow ETC to have exclusive use of any highway lanes. No way, Liu said, can the government penalize anybody on this basis.

It is also ridiculous that the OBU can only be used in the vehicle for which it is registered and cannot be shared among family members, he said.

In response, the freeway bureau restated the fact that all drivers adding NT$4,000 to their OBU cards at a time will receive a 5 percent discount, saying the policy will take effect later this month.

An official with the freeway bureau who declined to disclose his full name said he hoped lawmakers can support the ETC system as it is the way of the future.

The official said he understood that the price of OBUs is an obstacle, but said that it he believes it is fair, as the system gives drivers the luxury of being able to pay their toll while maintaining a driving speed of 40 kph.

However, he said he sees no reason why family members cannot share OBUs.

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