Well, I have been in Taiwan two and one half weeks now, and things are starting to settle down. We have taken care of our two Italian Greyhounds. They are in quarantine until next week. Tuesday 10/23/12 is the day we can take them to our place in Taipei. We have taken care of personal issues, met with family and friends, and have explored the City and its sights along the way. From our apartment in Taipei, we have a fabulous view of Taipei 101 building that we enjoy day and night.
Taipei is a melting pot of the historic, old, the newer and the ultra-modern. The 2012 current population of Taipei and New Taipei City is about 6.5 million people. This population, especially the younger generation is very mobile and people are on the move almost 24-7.
|Courtesy of Wikipedia|
In Taipei, there are almost 2 million registered automobiles, and there are over 40,000 taxi cabs all painted in the typical bright yellow color. I certainly would have guessed much more than that, because they seem to be everywhere. So far, we have taken many taxis in Taipei, but have never waited more than 1-2 minutes to get a taxi ride. Great Taxi Service in Taipei!
Even more prevalent are the motorized scooters (mopeds) driven predominantly by the younger generation. One source said that in Taiwan there are almost 9 million registered mopeds and another source indicates over 2 million mopeds in Taipei alone.
At rush hour, peak travel times, Taipei is moped madness and mopeds dominate every road. From my perspective, mopeds out number cars and taxis in rush hour by a factor of 5x to 10x (my pure guess). Driving in this moped madness is driving insanity and requires a slow pace, extreme caution, and un-measureable patience.
|Courtesy of soc.umn.edu|
One interesting part is that most mopeds are single drivers, but many are couples. But every day you can see people with their dogs/pets riding on the moped and even families of 3, 4, or even 5 people on one of these small motorized scooters.
Ok enough of that. If you are a visitor and don’t buy a car or a moped, how do you get around town? Taxis are very convenient, but expensive. The metro bus system is great, but most info at the bus stops are in Chinese, so navigation and bus selection is tricky unless you can read mandarin.
The MRT is fantastic, efficient, clean and highly utilized by residents and visitors alike. The cost is very low, about 60 to 75 cents for short distances. But, to get where you are going, be prepared to walk quite a ways often times when your destination is not in line with the MRT lines.
But, in many Taipei areas, they now offer “YouBike”, a subsystem on the Taipei MRT. A simple and inexpensive way to rent a bicycle and get from point A-B or round trip when you don’t want to walk, or pay for expensive taxis. Let’s talk about bicycle transportation and the super “Ubike” convenience in Taipei. The website refers to this program as “YouBike”, but the logo is “Ubike”.
At a YouBike or “Ubike” location, the first thing you will see is the row of yellow and orange modern and like new bicycles.
You will also notice the tandem dock stations that holds two Ubikes secure, and ready to rent.
|Empty YouBike dock station|
|Here's one for Rent !|
|Dock Location 09-1......got to remember that number to rent.|
Look for the Ubike KIOSK and you can get started on your Ubike experience. The Kiosk is a wealth of information.
|Youbike Kiosk - Rent your "Ubike" here unless you are a member|
|Back of Kiosk with area map and rent/drop off locations|
The system is in both Chinese and English and can give you maps, location summaries with number of docks and the number of available bikes to rent.
For short term use, without registering as a member, you chose your bike at the Kiosk, use your EasyCard to pay, and then go to the dock, swipe your EasyCard and take your bike. Its that simple! But if you do not have an EasyCard, in peak usage times people can walk up to the dock you chose and rent the bike before you finish the Kiosk process.
To return the bike to any location in the city, just move your bike into the available dock station, swipe your card, and then you are done and on your way. The bike is now safely locked in the dock station for the next user.
Soon this operation will have mobile apps that will make renting and returning even more simple and faster.
|Your Youbike is now safely returned and locked in the dock station|
Why don’t more metropolitan cities around the world offer such a great system? The Taipei MRT system's YouBike operation is world class in my opinion. I only hope they expand further throughout the city. Great Job Taipei! Taiwan residents should be proud of this great service!
I have traveled all over the world, and this is the first metro system I have ever seen. Sure cities have small business renting bikes by the hour or day, but they are not great bikes, not easy to rent without signed waivers, cash or credit card deposits, contracts, etc. Forget that hassle and inconvenience ...... I prefer "Ubike". !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I remember back in the 90’s, I traveled extensively throughout Europe. Many people rely on bicycles in most European cities, but I have yet to see such a flexible rental system.
While traveling in Germany, I visited the small Bavarian city of Burghausen, along the Salzach River near the Austrian border. This town is most famous for its castle which dates back to the Bronze Age more than 1000 years ago.
|Burghausen Castle at Night - Courtesy of Wikipedia|
|Burghausen Castle seen from Austrian side - Courtesy of Wikipedia|
This castle is the longest castle in Europe and stretches along the river hillside for a total length of 10,43 meters.
|Burghausen Castle Eastern view - Courtesy of Wikipedia|
|Burghausen Castle Eastern view - Courtesy of Wikipedia|
Well, I will tell most stories about my Burghausen adventures in future blogs, but this mention is in relations to a business trip to Wacker-Chemie’s plant in Burghausen. This plant was founded in 1914, and today this facility employs about 10,000 people, and is one of the major semiconductor silicon wafer production sites in the world.
|Wacker Burghausen Plant Site - Aerial View - Courtesy of Wacker website|
Anyway, as I finished my day long meeting in the 1990-1991 time frame, I was leaving around 5:30 pm, and I was star struck, overwhelmed, and amazed. I could barely leave the parking lot and get out of this huge facility campus, because there was literally thousands of employees from production workers, to engineers, managers and scientists, all riding their bicycles home from work. I have never seen such a site of a bicycle "mass exodus" anywhere else in my life time. At least Wacker Burghaussen saves significant land space to park bicycles instead of cars!
In my opinion, globally speaking, the world needs more such "Ubike" systems to keep our urban cities more green.