The Taipei City Government on Monday was accused of badly managing the Maokong Gondola, which has run up a total loss of NT$360 million (US$12.24 million) over the past three years.
“The Maokong Gondola is a great money-losing venture. For each day’s operation, it adds NT$350,000 to its deficit. It loses an average of NT$41 for each passenger,” Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City Councilor Wu Su-yao (吳思瑤) said during a city council question session.
Wu accused the city government of mismanagement and incompetence in operating the gondola, saying it has accumulated NT$360 million in losses since 2010.
She demanded that the city reassess the proposed Beitou gondola project and suggested it be halted.
“The plan for the Beitou gondola has been in the works for 20 years, but I see that it is following in the footsteps of the Maokong Gondola,” Wu said.
She said that the geology of Beitou District (北投) would make the proposed gondola weaker and more risky than the construction in the Maokong area.
“The Taipei City Government must put in stringent measures to monitor the process. I suggest that the decision [to build the Beitou gondola] be left to the next mayor,” Wu said.
“The land designated for the Beitou gondola project has a serious erosion problem, and sulfur from the hot springs and volcanic vents breaks down the rock. People are very worried about the project’s safety,” she said. “The proposed gondola goes through residential neighborhoods and important cultural sites. Even if the project conditionally passed the environmental impact assessment in December, the city government must not slack off on its responsibility to monitor and regulate the process.”
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) told Wu that the environmental impact assessment report was completed for the Beitou gondola project last year. The project is now proceeding according to the proper regulations, he said.
“As for questions about the geology, the city government will uphold its responsibility to oversee and monitor the project,” he said.
Wu also said that when the Beitou gondola project was initiated 20 years ago, the aim was to alleviate traffic congestion on Yangde Boulevard, the main road to and from Yangmingshan National Park, but since then changes have been made to improve the traffic flow to and from the park.
Wu added that the city government had bungled the Maokong Gondola’s management, saying this was the cause of the deficit and was affecting tourism to the area. She said Hau and city officials basked in the positive publicity from the newborn giant panda Yuan Zai (圓仔), yet were incapable of formulating good ideas.
“We have Yuan Zai the baby panda at the Taipei Zoo attracting much attention, but the city government signed a business collaboration agreement with Japanese company Sanrio for Hello Kitty marketing and merchandizing to promote the Maokong Gondola in an attempt to salvage the operation,” Wu said.