|Buses at the Banciao train station|
One glaring difference between California and Taiwan is seen in the use of public transportation. In California, you see lots of empty buses, trains and rapid transit trains. The Amtrak commuter system is rarely used. Bus after bus passes by empty or with just a few seats being used. Californians rarely travel by train.
Of course, one reason that people rarely travel by train may be something like I experienced. I was traveling to Northern California from Riverside in Southern California. Because of the mountains near Bakersfield, there was a need to travel for a while by Amtrak bus. So as I went to board the bus with my luggage the driver told me I wasn’t allowed to travel with luggage. Yeah that works, if you have to stay the night somewhere, or are planning a stay for a while, I guess you have to wear all the clothes you might need.
In Taiwan however, buses are full to overflowing, the MRT stations are crowded, and the trains are a popular way to get around. It might be because the train system seamlessly connects with bus and MRT routes. There are two types of trains; local and express. They’re inexpensive, clean and pretty comfortable. A trip from Taoyuan to Taipei takes approximately 30 minutes. There are bus stops and MRT connections (In the MRT Service area) at every train station.
|The Easy Card: It is aptly named|
Because the buses and MRT are so frequent there is rarely more than a ten-minute wait, except during peak commute hours where buses are full. In those cases you may have wait for a while to get on a bus.
All of the train stations have a safe "waiting zone for female passengers at night." These are well-lighted areas with camera surveillance. The trains run until late at night and sitting in a poorly lit, nearly empty train station isn't particularly comfortable. The waiting area adds safety and comfort for female passengers.
Crowded trains mean that many people have to ride the train standing up in the aisle, so handy grab rings hang from the ceiling.
The photo above is the Banciao Train Station. In addition, to transportation services, there are shops, and restaurants in many of the large train stations. There is an entire shopping mall underneath the Taipei Main Station.
People line up at Banciao train station to catch the bus to almost anywhere they need to go. Buses run from here to almost every point in the city of Taipei.
This sign on the bus shows the different levels of accesibility available on the buses. All the trains station make some provision for access. There are elevators for going above or below the tracks to access different platforms. There are even people who will lift wheelchair bound people in and out of the train. One time a man wanted to carry me on his back out of the train, I declined however, for reasons of dignity.
The turnstiles at the Banciao MRT station are equipped for easy card access and you can see the turnstile at the far right accommodates wheelchairs. All MRT trains are designed to have the floors level with the platform for easy wheelchair access.
All Photos by Emily Banducci