On my visit to Kaohsiung I was keen to check out the Kaohsiung MRT system. The red line (north-south) officially opened in March this year and the orange line (east-west) is scheduled to open next month. They were still busy doing work around the entrances of the orange line stations, so I am not sure whether the work is on schedule.
A stored value card called a puka (普卡), translated as “usual” in English, can be used on the MRT and Kaohsiung’s bus system. Tokens for a single trip can also be purchased from the automatic vending machines in the station.
Monitors display information about the time of arrival of the next train. They also advise the arrival time of the second train. It makes it easy to calculate the headway which seemed to be 5-6 minutes during peak times and 10-11 minutes off-peak.
I took the MRT at several times during my visit. It seemed at its busiest on a Sunday afternoon. During peak times on weekdays there was a good number of passengers, but it was never really crowded. At present the trains running are only three carriages long. This is because the platform at Kaohsiung Railway Station is shortened to allow for the future construction of the underground Kaohsiung Railway Station. The platforms at the other stations are long enough to accommodate six carriages.
One feature of the system is that in the underground stations the platforms are sealed by automatic sliding doors. This makes the airconditioning more efficient and also improves safety.
One special feature of the MRT is that folding bikes can be carried on at any time. I really hope the Taipei MRT can follow this example!
I was disappointed to find the Formosa Boulevard Station was not open. This station will connect the red and orange lines. The four sweeping glass structures at the station entrances look quite impressive. The station also features a large glass art installation by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata.
The Central Park Station is also very distinct with an entrance down long escalators from inside the park.
North of Zuoying the MRT goes above ground. The station pictured above is the World Games Station.
Zuoying Station provides transfer between the MRT and the HSR and Taiwan Railways. The MRT Station is underground while the HSR and TRA platforms are at ground level. It is possible to transfer directly from the MRT station up the stairs to the platform of the TRA station. However, transferring to the HSR involves travelling up two flights of stairs to the HSR station and then down to the platform. Everything is very well signed and integrated together though.
Overall the system seems to have been built to high standards. My one criticism is that many of the passengers seemed uncertain about how to use the ticketing machines and gates. There really needs to be more staff on hand to familiarise and help people with the system, especially as it is so new. Even though Taipei’s MRT has been in operation for 12 years there are still staff and volunteers on hand to assist people who are unfamiliar with how things work.
*more photos in the Kaohsiung MRT set at David’s Formosa Photo Gallery.