Bureau to review freeway toll policy

HASSLE::A National Freeway Bureau official said travelers had previously complained the high-occupancy vehicle policy left them with little flexibility in arranging their trips

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Apr 13, 2013 - Page 5

The National Freeway Bureau said it would consider adjusting the freeway toll-free hours and adopting a tiered toll scheme to manage traffic flows during Tomb Sweeping Day holidays.

The bureau was criticized following serious congestion on the nation’s freeways during the four-day holiday from April 4 to April 7.

Many have questioned why the bureau did not implement the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) policy during the holiday, which has in the past proven to be an effective way of regulating freeway traffic.

Bureau Director-General Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁) said on Thursday that the bureau had used the HOV policy to control freeway traffic during the Tomb Sweeping Day holidays in 1998 and in 2007.

He said freeway users had complained that the HOV policy had left them with little flexibility in arranging their homebound trips.

Cargo transportation associations also opposed enforcing the policy during the holiday because it disrupted their services, he said.

“To effectively enforce the HOV policy, the police force also needs to send personnel to the freeways, causeing a strain in the deployment of the personnel,” Tseng said.

Prior to the holiday, the bureau estimated that the number of vehicles on the first day of the holiday would be 1.45 million. The actual number topped 1.48 million.

“The traffic volume on the second and the third days of the Lunar New Year holiday this year topped 1.5 million, but freeway traffic flowed smoothly,” he said.

“Given the inconvenience that the HOV policy would bring to travelers, we decided not to implement it during the Tomb Sweeping holiday this year,” he added.

Tseng said freeway congestion on April 4 was caused by the convergence of traffic brought on by those planning to use the day for a family outing, adding that the heaviest traffic on that day occurred between 5am and 7am.

“Some families had already taken advantage of the toll-free hours on the weekend before the holiday to clean tombs, so they decided to use the day [April 4] for a family trip,” Tseng said.

“Others needed to meet up with family members in central and southern Taiwan before they went to sweep tombs. As both groups wanted to beat the traffic and take advantage of the toll-free hours, traffic started to become heavy early in the morning. By the time we activated the meter control on the ramps, congestion had already occurred on the freeways,” he said.

Tseng said the bureau would reconsider implementing the toll-free hours, and decide whether it would continue making 5am to 7am toll-free hours if the first day of the holiday coincides with Tomb Sweeping Day.