Mayor admits he spoke ‘too soon’ regarding MRT monthly pass (update)

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) admitted Monday that he spoke too soon in announcing a plan to issue a NT$2,500 monthly pass for unlimited use of Taipei’s subway system.

The new policy, which Ko said would take effect Jan. 1 next year, was targeted at “poor people living in suburban areas who spend a lot of time commuting to work in Taipei” to get them to use public transportation rather than motorbikes.

But the NT$2,500 price tag was roundly criticized soon after he made the announcement.

“I spoke too fast,” Ko said, claiming he was “excited by my bike ride” a day earlier when he made the announcement.

Two Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) city councilors criticized city transportation officials for failing to “get the math right” before setting a price for the monthly pass, arguing that it was much too high.

Councilor Ho Chih-wei (何志偉) said a person would have to take 120 rides between the Xinbeitou and Taipei City Hall stations in a month to use up the pass’s NT$2,500 value, while a scooter rider could travel 4,200 kilometers on NT$2,500 worth of gasoline.

Ho also questioned how many people actually spend as much as NT$2,500 on the MRT system a month.

Ko said it was a hard question to answer because many people own multiple EasyCards — the stored value card most used to pay fares in the MRT system.

But Taipei Rapid Transit Corp. President B.C. Yen (顏邦傑) said only 1,100 people spend as much as NT$2,500 a month on MRT travel, based on EasyCard data.

In spite of the public outcry, Ko said “we will make adjustments after the policy has been implemented for a while. I was seeking to promote the benefits of riding on public transit vehicles.”

He has said the policy will be put into force for a three-month period beginning Jan. 1, 2017 before his city government reviews its effects.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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