Dozens of protesters took to the streets and national freeways yesterday to show their anger at the new distance-based electronic toll collection system, with some calling for the nationalization of the system should problems persist.
Led by Tainan City Councilor Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) of the Democratic Progressive Party, about 100 motorists from the Greater Tainan drove up National Freeway No. 1 without an eTag, the small vehicle ID card affixed to the vehicle’s windshield or headlight that is used for electronic toll collecting.
Instead, their cars sported stickers declaring: “Too pissed for eTag.”
The protests came after numerous problems with the electronic toll system were reported, although some cases were exaggerated.
Problems have included erroneous eTag detections and calculations, shoddy customer service and a cellphone application that proved woefully ineffective handling the millions of highway users in the nation.
During the protest in Greater Tainan, Wang listed the advantages of driving without an eTag, including paying after receiving an itemized bill, which would ensure mistakes could be avoided.
Similar freeway protests led by local politicians took place in Greater Kaohsiung and Yilan County.
In Taipei’s Ximending District (西門町), dozens of protesters gathered in front of a Far Eastern Group department store, which is run by the parent company of the toll collection system’s operator, Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC). The protesters affixed stickers to the store’s glass doors.
About a dozen activists representing Youth Labor Union 95, Trade Union of Electrical, Electronic and Information in Taiwan, and an anti-eTag alliance, gave out stickers that again read: “Pissed off and will not use eTag,” or “No eTag.”
Advocates of workers’ rights and some toll collectors who have lost their job since the new tolling system was officially launched on Jan. 2 threw their support behind the protest.
The Youth Labor Union 95 said that Far Eastern Group signed a contract with the National Freeway Bureau to establish the new system 10 years ago, but that it had still has not gained the public’s trust.
The eTag system will affect people’s right to privacy and free movement because vehicle location data can be collected through the system, which makes it equivalent to being monitored while driving on the freeway, the union said.
The alliance also encouraged the public to cancel their eTags because the Far Eastern Group did not honor its commitment to help displaced freeway toll collectors find new jobs.
The anti-eTag alliance said while public remarks made by the Far Eastern Group recently seemed to imply drivers cannot go on the freeway without an eTag, this was not the case.
The public should be aware that it is possible to use the freeway without an eTag, and be billed later, the group said.
Alliance spokesperson Shen Tsung-han (沈宗翰) also said that under the Highway Act (公路法), there must be no discount discrimination between people who use an eTag and those who refuse to use it, so those without the eTag should be entitled to the 20km toll-free discount and the 10 percent discount on toll fees starting from July.