MRT timing

Given that I go on the MRT everyday, I tend to notice things like how much time a train takes to go from one station to the next, how things like adding Nangang to the east end of the blue line caused me to have to wait another train when I get to Taipei Main Station on the red line, and which doors are the best to exit from to minimise time spent in the MRT system.

One thing I was curious about was the timing of trains. I noticed that I need nearly twice as much time going to work as I do coming back from work. That applies even if I go during morning rush hour, which has more commuters, and hence higher train frequency.

Even though the train cars are sometimes too crowded to enter in the morning, that is not what was making the difference.  Lately, particularly because my backpack failed, I haven’t been bringing books to read for the short ride. Instead, I count the number of seconds between stations. I discovered things like the ride between Taipei Main Station and Shandao Temple station taking different amounts of time during the day. In the morning, the time for the train to go between the two stops might be 90 seconds, but in the evening, it only takes the train 70 seconds to make the same trip. There are similar differences between other stations on the Blue Line, so it adds up.

It seems that in the evening, since trains go faster and headway is more frequent, more people get moved to their destinations more quickly. Since the capacity is higher, there are less people on the platform still trying to get into the train when the door closing sound occurs, so the doors aren’t open as long in the evening either.

It seems obvious what the MRTC could do to make the commute faster in the morning, but it is not clear why there is this difference in the first place. Then again, it is also not clear to me why Taipei Main Station, currently the largest transfer point between lines in Taipei, is so badly designed. If I take the shortest route between the red line and blue line, it takes me at least a minute and a half to get to the platform of the other line. That doesn’t include the amount of time I then have to wait to get on a train.

In Hong Kong, the system was designed with enough foresight that every original transfer point was made up of two stations. The lines would come together for two stations, so that it would be easy to transfer to the other train by simply walking across the platform. At one station you could go one way on the other line, and at the following station you could transfer going the other way. There is a reason I think Hong Kong has the best metro in the world, and that is it. It is something they have had for almost 30 years now, so newer metros (or metros with huge extensions during that time) like Seoul, Shanghai, and Taipei have no excuse.


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