The Freeway Bureau’s smartphone app, “Freeway 1968 (高速公路1968),” might continue to be used during holidays to warn people of crowds at tourist attractions if the public deems it helpful for stopping the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said yesterday.
The app, developed in-house to monitor freeway traffic and help drivers avoid congestion, was upgraded and used for the first time during last week’s International Workers’ Day holiday to monitor crowds at travel destinations.
The upgraded app was intended to help curb the outbreak, but some local officials said that it did not always accurately reflect the size of crowds at travel destinations, which might turn away potential visitors.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷) said yesterday at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee in Taipei that the ministry significantly improved the app’s functions, despite a chaotic launch.
Asked by Hung if the crowd alert function would still be used after the pandemic, Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Huang Yu-lin (黃玉霖) said that the function was added on the instructions of the Central Epidemic Command Center and that it would not be available after the disease stops being a threat.
However, if the public considers it an essential function, the ministry would consider keeping it, he added.
Yesterday morning, the ministry meeting discussed a proposal by the Tourism Bureau that 72 tourist hotspots be removed from the list of destinations monitored by the app, after it received requests from local government officials.
The bureau has proposed that 31 additional tourist spots be monitored by the app, including Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) area and Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市), as well as Qingshui Geothermal Park in Yilan County’s Datong Township (大同).
At the meeting, representatives from the Miaoli, Kinmen, Lienchiang and Penghu county governments did not comment on the list of the travel destinations currently monitored by the app.
The Tainan City Government, which had previously complained about the number of city hotspots being monitored, said that all of the Tainan tourist attractions should be removed from the list, while the Kaohsiung City Government said that it would turn in a list of local attractions to be monitored after holding a meeting later yesterday.
“Many local government officials think that they should not let their guard down regarding disease prevention. So, we will deliberate over which tourist attractions should be monitored, but we will consult professionals and not accept all of the proposals. The guiding principle is to develop tourism while preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said, who presided over the meeting.
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