The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) mayoral candidates for Taipei, New Taipei City, Keelung and Taoyuan held a news conference on Nov. 8 to propose a pass for commuters in the four cities to access public transportation for NT$1,280 (US$41) per month.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has committed to budgeting NT$2.6 billion per year for the proposal, and Minister of Transportation and Communications Wong Kwo-tsai (王國材) has made the project sound even better by saying that the pass should be available to commuters nationwide.
Taipei and New Taipei City already offer a joint monthly transit pass for their residents, but that well-intentioned policy excludes Keelung and Taoyuan residents living and working in the Taipei metropolitan area.
With this shortcoming in mind, the four candidates proposed their plan.
Their pass would aim to ease the burden on daily commuters and improve their quality of life. At the same time, public transportation companies would also clearly benefit and be more willing to invest more in their operations.
Public transportation would become more accessible under the proposal, which would lead to better air quality and fewer traffic jams. It would also save energy and reduce carbon emissions.
As traffic congestion eases and air quality improves, those who drive or live in urban areas would also benefit.
On the other hand, public transportation is not readily accessible to those who live in the suburbs or further away from major cities.
If long-distance buses and the Taiwan Railways Administration system could be included in the monthly pass, it would be a blessing for them. Not only could they cut their commuting costs, they would also be able to travel to cities daily without having to relocate for their jobs.
They would not have to rent a place to live in a city, which for many would mean they can look after older family members and children at home. That way, older family members could be taken care of, and the issue of relying on grandparents to look after small children could be avoided.
Housing prices in urban areas are intimidating for young people, and the situation has affected their willingness to raise children, meaning that the inability to buy a house contributes to a lower birthrate. Houses in the suburbs are still affordable, but commuting expenses are high.
A monthly pass for public transportation would help those living in the suburbs commute to school and work. It might also reduce housing prices in urban areas.
The pass would also encourage people to use public transportation. With fewer vehicles on the road, traffic safety would certainly improve.
The monthly pass would benefit many. It is also a good strategy to bridge the gap between urban and rural communities.
Along with sufficient supporting measures, the proposal could be instituted in a satisfactory way.
In conjunction with the government, the Taiwan Railways Administration and bus companies could surely stipulate some rules for passengers with monthly passes. For instance, if a ride exceeds a certain distance, passengers would have to pay more.
All things considered, the monthly pass should be a bipartisan plan, and every city and county should cooperate on it. The sooner the plan can be executed, the better.
Wang Chih-chien is a distinguished professor at National Taipei University’s Graduate Institute of Information Management.
Translated by Liu Yi-hung
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