The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) yesterday defended offering freeway toll discounts to drivers during off-peak hours over the Double Ten National Day long weekend, saying the policy has encouraged some drivers not to travel during peak hours.
The policy, which was part of the ministry’s plan to ease freeway traffic over the holiday, offered a 30 percent discount to drivers who entered freeways on Saturday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
Besides diverting the traffic burden from peak hours to off-peak hours, the policy was also aimed at encouraging drivers to avoid driving during late-night hours, the ministry said.
Entrance to freeways were toll-free at night, but it is a high-risk period for accidents, it added.
However, lawmakers on the legislature’s Transportation Committee said that the policy had failed.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said that the policy instead created “three big wonders.”
The first was that heavy traffic emerged as early as 6am on the first day of the holiday, with the traffic slowing to 10kph, he said.
The second wonder was that it took drivers two hours to travel from Yilan County’s Jiaosi Township (礁溪) to the Chiang Wei-shui Freeway (Freeway No. 5) interchange 200m away, Lee said.
The third wonder was that the traffic was so heavy in certain places that people had difficulty accessing major scenic areas as well as leaving them, he said.
DPP Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清) said the policy was ineffective because the ministry was too stingy to give away carrots and was too afraid to use sticks.
The government should waive the toll fees for drivers leaving during off-peak hours and double the fees for those driving during peak hours, Cheng said, adding that this would be a test for the ministry to show its determination to improve holiday traffic.
Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Chi Wen-jong (祁文中) said that southbound traffic on the first day of the holiday increased by 5 percent, but southbound traffic during the off-peak hours on the first day rose by 8 percent.
This showed that the policy had diverted 3 percent of peak-hour traffic to off-peak hours, Chi said.
On the last day, the policy helped divert 16 percent of the traffic from peak hours to off-peak hours, he said.
Nevertheless, congestion occurred in some freeway sections due to the overall increase in freeway traffic volume, Chi said.
Chi also said that the ministry is considering implementing a differential toll fee scheme, in which drivers would be charged different rates at different hours.
However, such a scheme would require careful calculation, or it would produce nothing but disaster, he said.
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