Luzhou Line boom may be short-lived: vendors

FREE RIDES::An urban regeneration foundation official said the new MRT line would eventually boost business in the old districts, although it might take years to do so

Staff Writer, with CNA

Sat, Nov 27, 2010 - Page 2

Small businesses in Taipei’s older districts are concerned that the sudden influx of visitors since the Luzhou Line began operating earlier this month may only be a short-term boon for the local economy, with the one-month free trial of the new MRT line ending on Thursday.

At the inauguration of the line connecting downtown Taipei City with Taipei County across the Tamsui River, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said the new line would usher in a cultural renaissance and boost businesses in some of the oldest parts of Taipei.

However, residents of Datong (大同) and Zhongshan (中山) districts — two of the first settlements in what is now Taipei City and at one time the area’s commercial center — are not so optimistic.

“We are not sure how long the ‘Luzhou Line momentum’ is going to last,” said Wu Ming-hsueh, head of an association of businesses that oversee the tourist night market on Yanping N Road Sec 3 in Datong District.

“We have seen an average 30 percent increase in turnover in the past few weeks,” Wu said. “But most of the visitors came here by chance because they wanted to explore the area for free.”

For those in the Qingguang Commercial Zone — an old-style market in Zhongshan District that has been offering imported goods since the 1960s — commercial prospects after the Luzhou Line’s trial run look slim.

“I don’t even know if the crowds on some weekends are brought by the Luzhou Line or the flora expo,” said Chang Ching-i, a vendor who’s been selling soya-mixed meat for more than 10 years.

He was referring to the Taipei International Flora Expo, which opened this month.

“I would rather count on regulars because the crowds might just be passers-by,” he said.

Nevertheless, experts said it’s only a matter of time before these areas benefit from the opening of the Luzhou Line.

A more convenient transportation system will eventually boost interaction between old and new communities, as well as attract urban renewal projects and business opportunities, said Mai I-an (麥怡安), a section chief of the Urban Regeneration R&D Foundation.

“It will take years to see how old communities are revived by a better transportation network,” he said.

“Whether the trip is free doesn’t really make a difference,” he said.