Taipei Railway Station
Over 40 years ago, I used to take train rides from Taipei Railway Station every few weeks. It was fairly easy getting into or out of the station then.
In the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to take high-speed trains from the same station a number of times, which could get me to my destination faster. Occasionally, I would take the Tze Chiang Limited Express instead, so that I could reminisce about the old days when travel was more leisurely and I took the opportunity to do something on the train.
One time, I was all dressed up for a conference to be held in Taichung. Arriving at the station in a downpour, the taxi driver dropped me off far from the station. I asked if he could drop me off at the gate so that I didn't have to walk in the storm. He replied that it was impossible. I learned from him then that while there was plenty of space for dropping off and picking up passengers around the station, there were no designated covered areas for public or private cars to stop so passengers could be shielded from the wind and rain. Instead, you could see throngs of traffic controllers and volunteer social workers giving directions to passers-by.
Taipei is a rainy city. Think of it as bad luck if you ever have to walk in the rain.
Recently, I went to the station on the Taipei Metro (locally known as Mass Rapid Transit or MRT) instead of taking a taxi. I was meeting someone at East Gate Exit No. 3. I wondered all over this underground place after getting off the MRT. While there were colourful posters all over the place, I simply couldn't find directions for East Gate Exit No. 3. I couldn't even find directions for exiting the MRT station to the outside.
The Taipei Railway Station is a transit for the regular trains, high-speed trains and the MRT, supposedly a convenient place for travellers. Both the regular train and high-speed train have southbound and northbound departures from the station. In addition, the station serves two MRT lines, the Bannan Line and Danshui Line. And yet, one wonders why there aren't any covered areas for passengers to get into and out of the station outside the station while they are offering all the other "services"? Or why there are no clear directions for people to get into or exit the station inside the station among a sea of colourful posters and ads.
The 2014 Taipei Metro Attack incident, caused by a university student named Cheng Chieh, made people aware there were safety flaws with the MRT. According to a United Daily report, for example, as many as 38 out of the 109 Taipei MRT stations didn't have emergency exits. Even those stations equipped with emergency exits don't have clear signs indicating where they are located, as if it was none of their business to provide convenience for passengers to use the emergency exits.
Does the Taipei Railway Station remind you of someone who would rather spend time wearing fancy clothes than looking after their health?
This article was originally published in Chinese in the United Daily News (14 October, 2014).
24 November, 2014