Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kaohsiung MRT's Most and Least Popular Stations

Below is a list of the six most popular KMRT stations in 2011, along with the most popular station on the orange line:

Station Line Exits+Entrances
Kaohsiung Train Station Red 9,759,000
Zuoying Red 7,720,000
Kaohsiung Arena Red 7,348,000
Sanduo Commercial Dist. Red 6,898,000
Central Park Red 6,040,000
Formosa Boulevard Red/Orange 4,056,000
(Xiziwan Orange 2,250,000)

And the five least popular:

Station Line Exits+Entrances
Qingpu Red 510,000
Qiaotou Sugar Refinery Red 586,000
Houjing Red 759,000
Dadong Orange 829,000
Fengshan J.H.S. Orange 943,000

As nearly everyone familiar with the KMRT might have guessed, these numbers are far below those for Taipei's MRT.  The most popular station has only middling usage by Taipei's standards, and only one station in Taipei's MRT would make it onto the list of Kaohsiung's least-used stations.
Rather than go into why Kaohsiung's MRT has underperformed- for the record I think the reason is that the city is too car/ scooter friendly, and is not hemmed in by mountains like Taipei and so can sprawl more- I'd like to look at what this says about the system's design.  Most obviously, the three least-used stations are on the northern end of the red line, even though the red line gets heavier usage overall than the orange line.  Moreover, this section of the red line parallels the TRA's main line.  The TRA could have provided comparable rapid transit service to this area by adding stations and frequency, and at most by adding a third track, which presumably would have been far cheaper than extending the two-tracked KMRT.  The KMRT could have had its terminus at the Nanzih TRA station, where a reasonably easy transfer could have been designed.  The lower construction costs would have cut down on the depreciation the KMRT is now paying without significantly effecting its income.
Second, these numbers suggest that the orange line's alignment was poorly chosen.  Aside from stations that provide transfers to other mass transit (Kaohsiung Train Station and Zuoying) and Kaohsiung Arena (whose popularity I can't explain), the most popular stations are Central Park and Sanduo, both of which have nearly a million more yearly passengers than Formosa Boulevard.  I'm not very familiar with Kaohsiung, but it is also my impression that this area is Kaohsiung's commercial center, hosting several large malls and commercial districts.  The orange line might have gotten more ridership if it crossed the red line at one of these stations, since it would connect passengers directly to a popular destination rather than forcing them to transfer at Formosa Boulevard.  It also would have had less overlap with the TRA's Kaohsiung-Pingdong line, thereby doing more to expand rail transit coverage in Kaohsiung.  Even though this would have meant that passengers traveling between the more popular stations on the red line's northern half and the areas served by the orange line would have a longer trip, these areas would have been almost as easily served by the Kaohsiung-Pingdong Line, which is less than a kilometer away from the orange line for its entire length.  Even without the nearby rail line, I suspect a direct trip to somewhere, longer trip to other places type of alignment would have worked better than no direct trip to any major destination alignment the KMRT currently has.


  1. With regards to the popularity of Kaohsiung Arena, maybe I can suggest a few possible reasons for the high usage of this station, having lived in Kaohsiung for more than five years. Obviously it is built below a relatively new and very large department store, which is a major attraction, especially for younger people. Also, the Kaohsiung arena itself does hold events which may bring significant passenger numbers.
    Also, one of the city's biggest night markets, Rui Feng, is located only a block from this station, as is a rather large shopping and dining strip. Finally, San Min Vocational High School is one of the city's largest and is located right next to the station, which might explain some heavy student traffic. Great blog you have here and very interesting to read! Good work.

    1. Thanks for the explanation and the compliment! Sadly I don't have much time to write this, though hopefully that will change in a few months.

  2. I work and live near both Central Park (Red Line) and ShinNi School Station (Orange Line), I think the Orange line is placed for a line going east - West at the best points it can be, and under a main road. It hard to compare Kaoshuing subway traffic to Taipei, Kaoshuing is less dense and much less people. I would like to compare it more to the Los Angeles Subway lines, and I see much more useage than in Southern California. Many people in Kaoshuing would rather drive than use public transit like Southern California.

    1. Thing is, people would rather drive in large part because governments in both places have done more to make driving easier than mass transit/walking/cycling. As for the orange line, even if it links points in the east and west in the best possible way (and better than the TRA line could), that doesn't mean they should've built a full subway line there. The roads it's mostly under are so wide an elevated line would have made them more comfortable, not less, and even a surface running light rail would fit quite comfortably.

  3. There's something called 'the network effect' that is extremely important for any...you guessed it...network. That could be a social network or transportation network. The KMRT simply hasn't reached critical mass to make it useful to large sections of the population, it doesn't reach into large areas of Kaohsiung and it doesn't enough connectivity to provide more direct door to door routing. Adding on just a couple more lines would change the calculations completely and it wold make more sense to take a comfortable MRT than a longer and more dangerous and hot scooter trip for many.

    1. Kaohsiung could create a network effect simply by upgrading its bus system. Frankly though, I doubt a better network will make a huge difference. The two current lines already pass through the city's densest districts and link what I assume are the city's biggest destinations (the train station, Sanduo, the stadium). More lines would likely pass through less-dense areas and connect to smaller destinations. I'm sure new lines would add passengers to the existed lines, but I doubt they'd be enough to make a huge difference.
      Even though getting around by scooter may seem extremely unappealing to us, a lot of Taiwanese people cling to scooters for some of the same reason Americans cling to their cars- they don't want to walk at all, and it's often faster, as long as parking is readily available and the area you're in isn't jammed with traffic. Also, while they might not be climate-controlled, they are cheap, supposedly even cheaper than the MRT in Taipei. On top of that, walking in Kaohsiung is stressful, just as it is in most Taiwanese cities, mostly because pedestrian safety is sacrificed for driver convenience. Kaohsiung's high-capacity MRT system isn't going to be justified until the city makes it easier to walk, harder to drive, and focuses development around central MRT stations. It would also help if they stopped building freeways and, yes, developed a convenient, intuitive bus network.