By Chen Hsin-yu and Kayleigh Madjar / Journalist, with editor-in-chief
The General Directorate of Highways (DGH) reported on Monday on its initiative to improve public transport in remote areas, saying that with an annual budget equivalent to building a kilometer of railroad, life can be considerably improved for many people in rural areas.
By the end of last year, the “Happy Bus” program had extended the service to 321 lines serving 120 isolated communities, DGH director general Hsu Cheng-chang (許 鉦 漳) told a conference press release in Taipei.
In just a few years, the program increased public transport coverage to 89.78% in rural communities, Hsu added.
Photo copied by Chen Wen-yu, Taipei Times
To help tackle the “last mile” problem, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has also relaxed regulations to allow local organizations or individuals to set up their own transportation service, he added.
Hsu said he hoped the program could be extended to all corners of the country, because “happiness is being able to go wherever you want.”
Transport and Communications Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國 材) said the program is an extension of his work as the transport manager of Kaohsiung to provide bus-type taxi service to people living in remote areas. .
Providing public transportation to remote areas can solve long-term care access issues and help the elderly who cannot ride a scooter, Wang said.
The nearly NT $ 5 billion (US $ 180.6 million) spent annually on the program is the cost of building just 1 km of metropolitan railways, but it can bring happiness to dozens of people, did he declare.
The service is not frivolous, but a lifeline for many, he said, adding that he hoped DGH would continue to extend coverage to the last mile inclusive.
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