Use of public transport rising
Ridership on Taipei’s public transportation systems, including the MRT and city buses, will reach 1.2 billion by the end of this year, up from 1.1 billion last year, Taipei Department of Transportation Commissioner Luo Shiaw-shyan (羅孝賢) said yesterday. As oil prices increase and the economy remains in a recession, more people are choosing to take buses or the subway instead of driving, he said. The percentage of car drivers in the city this year dropped to 16 percent, compared with 20 percent last year, he said. The percentage of motorscooter riders rose to 34 percent, from 29 percent last year, Luo said, adding that more people were likely driving scooters because they were cheaper to drive than automobiles. But the number of people riding scooters could drop because of difficulties in finding parking space, he said.
Store elevator traps 15
An elevator malfunction in the Far Eastern Department Store in Banciao (板橋), Taipei County, trapped 15 customers for an hour yesterday before they were rescued. The elevator stopped between floors at 3:50pm as it was rising from the B2 level to B1. The trapped passengers pressed the emergency button and waited for rescue. The fire department said it planned to break down the doors to free the customers, but fearing there might have been more people in the elevator than maximum capacity allowed, elevator mechanics had to secure the car’s position first. The mechanics were able to pry open a narrow opening after 20 minutes and remove two children. After the car’s position was secured, firefighters were able to force open the doors and free the remaining 13 people. Each trapped customer was given a NT$500 gift certificate by the store as an apology. The store said the elevator underwent routine maintenance, and the cause of the malfunction was under investigation.
Kaohsiung backs baseball
Kaohsiung City’s Education Bureau has drawn up a plan to boost baseball in the city, bureau Director-General Tsai Ching-hwa (蔡清華) said yesterday. The bureau had reached a consensus with the National University of Kaohsiung last month to establish a college of sports at the school and the university had agreed to organize a team to take part in the Major League of College Baseball, she said. Other plans included establishment of a kids’ baseball team in each of the city’s 11 districts, renovation of the Lite Baseball Field and providing stipends for 20 coaches, the bureau said. Kaohsiung has about four to five youth baseball teams and two junior baseball teams, but the city government wants teams at all school levels. The plan will cost NT$36 million (US$1 million) annually, the bureau said.
Cannabis farm raided
Police found a cannabis farm in a mountain area in Hsinyi Township (信義), Nantou County, on Saturday. The 2,425m² farm was believed to be the largest of its kind ever found in Taiwan, with 1,500 plants, police said. Six hundred plants had already been dried into marijuana. With a market price of NT$200,000 per kilogram, the plants had a market value of more than NT$30 million, police said. Police received a tip about the farm a couple of days ago. Ten officers raided the farm on Saturday morning, and nabbed four people as they slept in a tool shed. The cannabis plants were 2.5m tall on average, rather than the normal 1m, the police said.