Kaohsiung’s Light Rail: The Little Engine That Couldn’t?

Kaohsiung’s high-tech light rail has been hit by low ridership and NIMBY protests.

The News Lenas
Date: 2018/06/06
By: Eryk Smith

Photo: Kaohsiung City Government

The Kaohsiung Light Rail tram line is rather impressive – the city’s electric trolley is the first catenary-free tram line on the planet (yes, I had to look up the word; in short, no power lines are strung above it). Using a third-rail for power is obviously a no-go for a trolley, so the Kaohsiung Light Rail uses a creative Spanish design that fast-charges at each stop; grabbing enough juice to make it to the next.

A pollution-free, no-ugly-wires tram line that connects tourist spots to metro lines sounds awesome, and it’s possible critics will one day eat their words, but after riding it a few times, I’m inclined to side with the naysayers who predict the light rail will pretty much end up as a joyride line for tourists. Whether it will ever be finished according to plan is also less than certain.

The latest section of construction has hit a snag: while the first part of the line mostly runs along the waterfront, the next phase requires entering neighborhoods – and the protests have begun.

Photo Credit: Eryk SmithA digger is seen with a protest sign attached in Kaohsiung.
No official announcement was made, but residents living in the pricey apartment buildings along Mei Shu Guan Road across from the Kaohsiung Art Museum told me that light rail construction is on hold after they expressed fierce resistance. Plans had called for the trolley to run down the center of Mei Shu Guan Road, but locals contacted city council members and lined the street with banners around two months ago. No work has been attempted since. The digging you see along that street currently is a gutter expansion project, workers told me, and has nothing to do with the light rail.

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