TAIPEI, Taiwan - The number of vehicles that flooded through national highways on "Little New Year's Eve" is close to topping 2.4 million within six hours, announced the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau yesterday.
The day before Chinese New Year's Eve is dubbed "Little New Year's Eve" by many, and it is on that day that "homeward bound" vehicles set out on all national highways as people head home for Chinese New Year.
The freeways saw heavy traffic begin at around 2 p.m. yesterday, and by 8 p.m., at least 2 million cars had passed through. The National Freeway Bureau has asked travelers to take advantage of nighttime travel, when there won't be as many cars on the road. The traffic usually continues well into the next day and will continue until five days later, when people return to the cities and towns where they work.
The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) began selling its non-reserved tickets at 6 a.m. yesterday for those heading to and from Taiwan's East Coast. Only 30 per cent of the seats on the first Taroko Express yesterday were filled, and 80 per cent of the Puyuma Express' free seating cars were occupied; no traveler was left standing, said the TRA. "We will be adding six trains per day (during Chinese New Year), all with non-reserved seats."
"Last year, we saw the highway traffic peak on the second and third days of Chinese New Year. This year we feel the same about these two days: there may be 2.9 million to 3.3 million cars passing on national freeways each day ... the 3.12 million we saw on the third day of Chinese New Year last year holds the traffic record so far, but it may be surpassed this year," said National Freeway Bureau official Lu Wen-yu. "We are reminding travelers to take National Freeway No. 3; those traveling through Northern Taipei (with Taichung marking the boundary) should take Freeway No. 1, and those only traveling short distances should take provincial highways to spread out road usage," said Lu.
Transportation Minister Chen Chien-yu promised that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) will be doing its best to keep the commute time to a maximum of six hours when traveling tip to tip in Taiwan, and to a maximum of 90 minutes when one takes Freeway No. 5.
Yet the MOTC also called on travelers to stay patient, as Freeway No. 5 has 50,000 cars passing through (one-way) each day, and that traffic jams may be inevitable.
"Travelers returning home are advised to take buses; there is one bus every three to five minutes going from Taipei to Yilan, and the commute will save over 30 minutes per trip when compared to driving your own car," said Chen.