Taipei’s Maokong Gondola attracted about 12,000 visitors yesterday with its new Hello Kitty-themed cable cars, and the Taipei City Government expects the popular Japanese cartoon character will boost the ridership of the struggling cable-car system.
The Hello Kitty cable cars, which are decorated with the cartoon character are to run for one year.
Since the new cable cars were launched on Friday, long lines have formed in front of the system’s Taipei Zoo Station, with the number of visitors yesterday up by about 45 percent compared with the same day last month.
The Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) signed an agreement with Japanese cartoon character producer Sanrio earlier this year.
General manager Tan Gwa-guang (譚國光) said all 145 cars are painted and each station decorated with Hello Kitty designs, after the TRTC paid Sanrio NT$1.5 million (US$51,000) for the right to use the cartoon character’s image for one year.
He said the TRTC has confidence in the popularity of Hello Kitty, and expected the promotion strategy to boost the ridership of the gondola.
“The popularity of the Hello Kitty cars, along with the public appearance of panda baby Yuan Zai’s (圓仔), starting next month, should boost the gondola’s popularity,” he said.
However, Tan declined to predict the number of visitors to the cable cars per month, citing unexpected weather conditions, such as rains and thunderstorms, which could force the gondola to suspend service.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who visited the gondola on Friday, said the city government would do more to boost the popularity of the gondola, and said he expected the increasing number of visitors to benefit businesses in the Maokong area.
The gondola system, which began operating in July 2007, has accumulated a NT$360 million loss.
It has become the biggest money-losing form of transportation in the capital, figures released by the TRTC showed.
The system enjoyed initial success, when all the stations were inundated by people lining up for up to two hours to take a ride at the weekend.
However, the popularity was short-lived, as the system was shut down for 18 months starting in 2008 because of safety concerns after the foundation of a support pillar was eroded during a typhoon.