The number of passengers who took the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) during morning peak hours rose more than 10 percent yesterday, the first day the city provided free public transport in an effort to combat air pollution, data released by Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp showed.
The data showed that the number of passengers taking the Kaohsiung Metro from 6:30am to 8:30am totaled 26,970 — up 3,072 or about 13 percent from the same period on Friday last week.
The free public transportation program was announced by Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) three days ago following a deterioration in air pollution in the largest city in southern Taiwan.
Under the free public transport program, holders of electronic cards, including the iPass, can also take city buses, highway buses and light rail trains free of charge from 6:30am to 8:30am and from 4:30pm to 6:30pm during weekdays.
On the city’s light rail system, only passengers with iPass and Happy Cash cards can ride for free.
The program, initiated by Kaohsiung’s Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) at a time of worsening air pollution in central and southern Taiwan, will run until Feb. 28.
Air pollution in Kaohsiung is particularly severe from December to February, Chen said, as she encouraged people to use public transport for the commute between home and work.
Bureau Director Tsai Meng-yu (蔡孟裕) said that this is the first program of its kind in Taiwan, and it is expected to cost about NT$200 million (US$6.66 million).
Tsai estimates that the three-month program would increase ridership by 1.76 million on city buses, 70,000 on highway buses and 1.6 million on the MRT, which is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 16,000 tonnes.
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