|Kaohsiung Train Station||Red||9,759,000|
|Sanduo Commercial Dist.||Red||6,898,000|
And the five least popular:
|Qiaotou Sugar Refinery||Red||586,000|
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.