Frequent commuters on highway buses are being invited to submit stories about their bus travel experiences for a competition launched by the Directorate-General of Highways (DGH).
The competition is part of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ campaign to boost public transport usage rates. Aside from the story competition, the directorate also launched a design contest in which participants must incorporate buses or items related to buses into creative designs.
As an incentive, the directorate is offering various prizes worth NT$1.5 million (US$50,200) to the winning entries.
The directorate yesterday invited nature writer Liu Ka-shiang (劉克襄) and seasoned bus travelers to recount some of their experiences at a press conference, but not all of them were pleasant ones.
Liu said he had a distressing experience on Monday night aboard a CitiAir Bus that he took after arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport from Singapore.
Liu said passengers on the bus smelled something burning as the bus drove through a downhill section in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Linkou District (林口). While the driver tried to assure the passengers that the smell was the result of him pressing the brakes as they went down the slope, passengers grew more anxious that the bus would catch fire and demanded the driver stop the bus. All the passengers got off the bus to wait for assistance.
Liu said the bus driver eventually found that the burning smell came from a malfunctioning air conditioner. Fortunately, a passenger with electrical engineering experience helped the driver temporarily fix the faulty air conditioner and they were able to continue their trip to Taipei.
“That was a real embarrassment,” because airport shuttle buses serve as visitors’ gateways to the nation, Liu said.
Nonetheless, he added that he also has many fond memories of taking road trips on the highway bus.
Chen Hsin-cheng (陳信誠), a worker at the Chimei Medical Center in Greater Tainan, took the bus to travel to Taipei for the press conference.
Chen said he loves taking city and highway buses, and particularly enjoys the ride if he gets to sit near the driver
“Sitting next to driver gives me the chance to ask them about what delicacies to eat or fun places to go at the destination that we are driving to,” Chen said. “It’s a great way to learn about the towns that sit on the bus route.”
Chen collects bus tickets and timetables, and has so far acquired 700 in total, many of them through online auctions. He showed the audience at the conference a timetable for a bus in Fengyuan (豐原), Greater Taichung, from 1963, which he bought online for NT$400.
“Many people think it’s faster to take a high-speed train, but I found that in many cases, it’s actually cheaper and faster to take the bus,” Chen said.
“If I travel from Greater Tainan to Greater Taichung, which I do often, I would need to transfer to a bus twice anyway if I were traveling by high-speed train,” he added. “If I take the bus the whole way, I can go straight to Taichung without making any transfers, which only takes a little longer than the train, but costs a lot less.”