The National Freeway Bureau may implement variable tolls and other measures to ease congestion on freeways during long weekends or major holidays.
The announcement came after severe congestion on the freeways during the six-day Lunar New Year holiday, particularly on the northbound lanes on the third and fourth days of the holiday.
Bureau statistics showed that the average traffic volume on the freeways during the holiday was 2.74 million vehicles, an 11 percent increase compared with last year.
The traffic volume on both northbound and southbound lanes on the third day of the holiday reached a record high of 3.12 million vehicles, up from 2.88 million last year.
The southbound traffic volume on the second day and the northbound traffic volume on the fourth day also set historic records, reaching 1.59 million and 1.79 million vehicles respectively.
Commenting on the increase in freeway traffic volume, Leu Wen-yuh (呂文玉), director of the bureau’s traffic management department, said that many people chose to take local trips rather than going overseas because of a shorter Lunar New Year holiday this year.
Sunny weather as well as an increase in toll-free hours from seven to 10 hours also encouraged some people to use the freeways.
“We have noticed that there is a significant increase in the number of short-distance travelers,” Leu said.
However, the bureau’s offer of a 20 percent discount on tolls for travel between Hsinchu and Yanchao (燕巢) on the Formosa Freeway (Freeway No. 3) as a way to divert traffic flow from the National Sun Yat-sen Freeway (Freeway No. 1) proved effective.
The bureau said that the ratio of traffic volume between Freeway No. 1 and Freeway No. 3 — the nation’s two main freeways — is 40 percent to 60 percent on a normal day. During the holiday, the ratio shifted to 49 percent to 51 percent.
On the third day of the holiday, the percentage was an even 50 percent to 50 percent, it said.
The traffic data also generated other findings. The travel time from Taipei to Greater Kaohsiung stayed within five hours every day throughout the holiday.
In terms of northbound traffic, people were able to drive from Greater Kaohsiung to Taipei within five hours, except for the third and fourth days of the holiday. Motorists who set out from Greater Kaohsiung during the peak hours — 3pm to 5pm — on these days drove for about 6.3 hours, slightly higher than the traffic management goal the bureau set before the holiday.
The bureau also found that about 740,000 vehicles took advantage of toll-free hours between 9pm and 7am, which accounted for only 27 percent of the daily traffic volume.
Previously, the bureau limited toll-free hours to between 11pm and 6am.
The data showed that about 420,000 vehicle used the freeways during these seven hours, which decreased by 7 percent compared with last year.
The data showed that 44 percent of traffic in toll-free hours emerged between 9pm and 11pm, as well as at 7am, the bureau said.
Bureau Director-General Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁) said that the data collected during the Lunar New Year holiday would be used as a reference when it drafts regulatory measures for the three-day 228 Memorial Day holiday at the end of this month and the National Tomb-Sweeping Day holiday in April.
“We would consider several factors, including traffic patterns during the different holidays, how many and when the toll-free hours should be, as well as the rates for different road sections or different time periods of the day,” Tseng said.