KMRT light rail ridership drops 50% after charging fares

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Commuters interact with staff onboard the city's light rail. Ridership on the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit system's light rail line dropped by half to about 3,500 riders a day in the first week after the line started charging fares on Nov. 1. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – Ridership on the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (KMRT) system’s light rail line dropped by half to about 3,500 riders a day in the first week after the line started charging fares on Nov. 1.

Travel on the light rail line, the first of its kind in Taiwan, had been free since it opened in October 2015.

But with a sharp increase in the number of passengers following the extension of the line this year, the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit Bureau decided to charge fares starting Nov. 1.

In the six months prior to Nov. 1, ridership on the light rail line averaged 7,000 passengers per day on weekdays and nearly 20,000 on weekends and holidays, said Shih Yao-cheng (石耀誠), the head of the Department of Public Affairs of Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp. (KRTC), which has been commissioned by the bureau to operate the line.

In the week after the line began charging passengers, however, ridership has fallen about 50 percent on weekdays and 40 percent on weekends and holidays compared with when rides were free, Shih said.

About 40 to 50 riders per day did not pay fares as required during the first week when fares were charged, Shih said, but the company is giving fare evaders a grace period to pay what they owe.

Once the grace period ends at the end of this year, those who evade fares could face fines equal to 500 times the cost of the fare they failed to pay.

Most of the fare evaders were EasyCard users, Shih said, mainly because Kaohsiung’s light rail system does not accept EasyCards, which are the main stored value card used on Taipei’s public transportation system.

Kaohsiung’s light rail line now runs from Lizihnei Station (C1) to Hamasen Station (C14), with the section between Dayi Pier-2 Station (C12) and Hamasen Station opening on Sept. 30, 2017.

The 8.7-kilometer waterfront rail is part of the Kaohsiung Circular Line that was designed to complete the city’s metro service network. 

By Wang Shwu-feng and Evelyn Kao