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September 20, 2017

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Taichung launches Bus Rapid Transit system

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taichung City Government on Sunday launched the Bus Rapid Transit of Taichung (BRT) system, partially opening 11 out of the 21 proposed stations on the BRT Blue Line and letting passengers ride for free.

On July 26, the service was first ridden by President Ma Ying-jeou. After a 3.4-kilometer tour on the blue line, Ma praised Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) for his idea to implement the service before the Taichung metro system is completed. Ma was so impressed by the service that he re-interpreted the acronym to represent "Bravo Remarkable Taichung."

Ma also stated that, unlike BRT systems that have earned the international reputation of the "poor-man's metro," the BRT of Taichung is an efficient and remarkable transportation system for the people of greater Taichung to enjoy before the Taichung metro system can be completed.

The service became available officially yesterday, opening 11 out of 21 stations, with five more stations set to open on Aug. 10 and the rest to open on Aug. 17 to compete the entire blue line. BRT buses will operate daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m..

 Reportedly, citizens can board the BRT without providing any sort of transit cards or money, as the service is currently free for anyone for an entire year. However, citizens will be required to use either the EasyCard (悠遊卡), Taiwan Easy Go (台灣通), iPASS (一卡通) or the ETC card to board the buses starting Aug. 10.

During an official speech, Hu stated that the decision to build the BRT is also the result of statistics displaying an increase in traffic difficulties. Hu was quoted to have said that without the BRT, Taichung's traffic could be compared to a myocardial infarction (MI), whereby the traffic, like the bloodstream during an MI, would cease to flow properly. The mayor later went on to say that the preliminary period of any new service will be inevitably flawed, just like the Taipei MRT during its early stages. Hu implored the general public to have patience with the Taichung BRT.

Praise and Criticism Arise on First Day of BRT Operation

The Democratic Progressive Party's Taichung Mayoral candidate Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍)criticized Hu for initiating the BRT before the entire system could be completed, stating that the incumbent mayor is risking the lives of citizens so he can benefit in the upcoming election.

The mayoral hopeful also chided the current Taichung City Government for failing to secure the proper funding for the Taichung MRT. The BRT is a substitute for the metro, a result of the city government's failing, Lin said.

Taichung citizens, however, gave mixed evaluations of the service, with some praising its convenience while others criticized the lack of completed BRT stations and lanes as well as potential dangers. Reportedly, passengers were asked to disembark into dangerous traffic, as construction vehicles occupied the BRT lanes to complete BRT infrastructure. Hu and the city government have since ordered improvement measures to be implemented in response to passenger complaints.

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