Transportation Deployment Casebook/2018/Taipei Metro (1996-2018)

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The Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is a rapid transit system serving the capital city of Taiwan. Branded as Taipei Metro, the MRT consists of 4 main routes and 2 branch lines, the entire Taipei Metro network consists of 108 stations including nine transfer stations. The Taipei MRT began operation in 1996, as it became the first metro system in Taiwan, operated by the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC).


The Department of Rapid Transit Systems of Taipei City Government and New Taipei City Government (DORTS Taipei and DRTS New Taipei) are responsible of the construction of the MRT system. The system provides a fast and reliable mode of transportation within in the city, as well as a source of revenue to the aforementioned government authorities. The latest statistics (2018) shows an annual revenue of $160 billion New Taiwan Dollars, around $7 billion Australian Dollars.

MRT is a high-capacity electric railway that are generally used as a public transport system in urban areas. MRT, unlike other public transport like buses and trams, operate on an exclusive right-of-way. This means that the area of operation (rails and stations) cannot be accessed by pedestrians and other vehicles; this is often achieve by the use of tunnels and/or elevated railways. This allows the rail to be operated at higher speed. The Taipei Metro utilizes the spoke-hub distribution paradigm in its network. The system operates from 6 am to midnight and the service intervals at each station varies from 1.5 to 15 minutes depending on the time of the day. Although operated and constructed by the same organisation, the technologies used in the 5 lines are slightly different from each other. The current 5 lines can be sorted into high capacity lines and medium capacity lines. The following section will describe the 2 types of systems, in terms of the type of rolling stock, control mode, platform and track.


The Taipei Metro utilizes the spoke-hub distribution paradigm in its network. The system operates from 6 am to midnight and the service intervals at each station varies from 1.5 to 15 minutes depending on the time of the day. Although operated and constructed by the same organisation, the technologies used in the 5 lines are slightly different from each other. The current 5 lines can be sorted into high capacity lines and medium capacity lines. The following section will describe the 2 types of systems, in terms of the type of rolling stock, control mode, platform and track.

Type 1: High Capacity Lines[1] (Tamsui-Xinyi Line, Songshan-Xindian Line, Zhonghe-Xinlu Line and Bannan Line)[edit]

Each train in type 1 system has a capacity of consists of 1936 passengers and is made up of 2 electric multiple units of 3 cars (3-car EMUs), totalling 6 cars. The train has a maximum speed of 80km/hr. The car floor and the platform are of the same elevation, this provides safer and easier boarding, especially for passengers with disabilities. The train system is operated by a train driver, guided by the signal system. The operations are supervised by the Operation Control Centre. A built-in safety orientation mechanism are installed to ensure passenger safety.

The types of platforms varies between stations, due to the different constrain at each location. The single side, the island, the double-level single side, double-level island and composite type are amongst the type of platforms that can be seen in the 4 lines. Platform screen doors can only be seen in some of the stations, but it is projected that all stations are to have screen doors installed by end of 2018. The gap between the platform edge and the train is 10 cm, while the train dwell time varies from 20 seconds to 50 seconds.

Type 2: Medium Capacity Line[1] (Wenhu Line)[edit]

Each train in type 2 system has a capacity of 424 passengers, and is made up of 4 cars; the cars are in pairs (married pair). The maximum speed of the rail is also 80km/hr and the car floor and the platform are also of the same elevation.

The entire operation of the lines are fully automated, computerized and driverless, it is control by the Operation Control Centre. The safety features include a built-in safety-orientation mechanism and an option to switch to manual when necessary.

The types of platform used in these lines are side-type and island-type platforms. The gap between the platform edge and the train is 3cm and screen doors are on the platform to ensure passenger safety. The train dwell time at the station varies from the lowest of 20 seconds to the highest 50 seconds.

Public Transport Before Taipei Metro[edit]

The public transport before the Taipei Metro consisted of 2 major system, the railways run by the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) and the Taipei Joint Bus System. Both of these systems are still in operation, and together with the metro system in each cities and the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR), make up Taiwan’s public transport network today.

The Taipei Metro project was first proposed in 1968, where the Minster of Transportation and Communications at the time included the construction of Taipei Metro in his plan to improve the capital’s transportation network. However, the planned was shelved due to its high cost and beliefs that there was no urgent need of the system. However, Taiwan’s economy experiences rapid growth in the 1970s, this was accompanied by the increase of traffic congestion especially in the Taipei metropolitan area. The proposal re-surfaced as a possible solution to the congestion problem.

The plan was finally approved in 1986. Prior to that, complex preparation work was done. These includes a preliminary rapid transport report, hiring consultants from other countries, feasibility study and establishing official authorities to handle important tasks.


The Taipei Metro provides the residents and tourist of Taipei a fast mode of transportation around Taipei City and New Taipei City. The network design features most interchange located in central Taipei and the lines runs radially outwards to other parts of the city. As of February 2017, the services are also extended to Taoyuan International Airport, the main airport of the country. Compare to buses, the metro system provides a more reliable mode of transport that is congestion free, high speed and are not affected by environmental factors such as weather. Compare to the TRA, the metro provide more stations and that are closer to significant destinations such as school, CBD and tourist attractions. The metro system also uses a smart card system (EasyCard) as a payment method, which can also be used to ride buses and bike sharing systems.


The metro system only runs within the city. Passengers that wish to travel to other cities by public transport would have to travel by TRA (at the time) or the faster but higher-priced THSR (from 2007). Compare to buses, which operates on normal roads, the construction process of a metro system is much more complicated. In the case of the Taipei Metro, the plan was to start the construction of all the lines around the same time in 1988. Although the first line was completed within 8 years, other lines encountered delays due to financial issues and controversy on the design. This led to road and area closures for a prolonged period of time in the city, this worsen the traffic condition at the time. The traffic condition was so bad that the people had named this period the “Dark Age of Taipei Traffic”.

Life Cycle Analysis - Qualitative[edit]

Birth Phase (1975 - 1998)[2][edit]

The initial design stage of the Taipei Metro took 11 years. The Executive Court of Taiwan requested the initial design from the Department of Transportation in 1975, when they realised the need for the system. The design was only approved in 1986.

The while the responsibility of the initial design was given to the Department of Transportation, the plan was broken down into 2 parts and appointed to 2 other authorities. The task of the initial design of the high-capacity lines were given to the Institute of Transportation (IOT), while the medium-capacity lines were taken up by the Taipei City Government. The IOT outsource to form a team for the preliminary report consisting of the British Mass Transit Consultants (BMTC) and the China Engineering Consultants, Inc (CECI). The Taipei City Government completed their feasibility study and research with the help of the National Chiao Tung University.[3]

The design proposals were submitted around the same time in late-1983 and early-1984 to the Executive Court. The Executive Court gave the initial feedbacks of the proposals, mostly regarding the network design of the high-capacity lines and the lack of integration of the design with the medium-capacity line. The final design was approve in 1986, after a consulting organization (TTC) with three other consultant firms from the US by the executive court, which made improvements to the network design.

In 1984, the Executive Court included the Taipei Metro as one of the 14 major infrastructure of Taiwan. With the design proposals under assessment/alteration with the TTC, the only missing piece of the major project was an official authorities to be in charge of the operations and construction. The debate was whether the city or the federal government should be in charge. The project concerns a mix of actors and a large sum of financial investment, making it a difficult decision. In January 1986, the decision was finally made to appoint the Taipei Metro to the Taipei City Government, which established the Department of Rapid Transit Systems to be responsible for any Taipei Metro related matters.

The Taipei Metro is the world’s 103th MRT system. During the birth phase of the Taipei Metro, the building blocks were available from past projects from other countries. As one of the major infrastructure, the transportation system is critical to the capital’s economy.

The birth phase of the Taipei Metro system also experienced some setbacks. Besides the previously mentioned “Dark Age of Taipei Traffic” as construction of the lines began successively, there was also two fire incidents during the testing stage prior to opening, court cases, financial issues and safety issues. Although there was no solutions to the worsened traffic condition caused by the construction, the other incidents helped Taipei Metro discovered the problems with the initial and came up with technological solutions to mitigate the issue.

In 1996 and 1997 the first 2 sections of the Taipei Metro starts their operation, this was a critical stage to test the future success of the system. Fortunately, it was a success, the performance and the passengers’ satisfaction were positive. The metro provided a transportation solution that fits the market value at the time. With the 2 new section in operation, businesses and development were brought into Southern and Eastern Taipei. One significant event is the development of the Taipei Zoo as one of the major tourist attraction of Taiwan. Overall, the birth phase of the Taipei Metro involved learning from the past project and acquiring knowledge and skills from the experts who were involved in the past projects. It involved hiring various consultants. The birth stage not only help improved the local knowledge and skills on the construction and operation metro system, it also builds a foundation for future expansion of the Taipei Metro and future metro system in other cities in Taiwan.

Growth: (1999 - 2015)[2][edit]

The growth phase of Taipei Metro started around year 1999 to 2000. During this period of time, the passengers carried doubled from the previous years. The rapid increase in the passenger count can be explain by the opening of the new lines during 1998 to 1999. During this period of time, 3 major lines (high capacity) were opened. These lines have a total of 70 stations and nearly 80km of rails. These lines together with the 2 lines opened before 1998, created the major metro network that essential for Taipei’s commuter, even until today.

The ridership counts kept increasing annually throughout the period (1999 – 2015) with the exception of 2003 when systems experienced a decrease in ridership compared to 2002. It was at this time the Taipei Metro decided to implement the use of EasyCard, a contactless smartcard system as the preferred payment of for the metro system. The EasyCard system was still at testing stage during 2002 to 2003.

The EasyCard aimed to improve the payment system for the Taipei Metro, in hopes to promote the use of the system. From the functionality standpoint, the EasyCard did improve the performance of Taipei Metro. However, the ridership counts at the time (2003) was not consistence with this. This might be due to the fact that the EasyCard was also at its birth phase. In 2004 the total number of EasyCards issued had reached 4 million (4 times of since its launched) and had again popularity by offering concession card, combination with student ID and welfare cards. The testing stage of EasyCard ended, as it was officially launched in Taipei Metro and the Taipei Joint Bus System. The success of EasyCard card in 2004 can been reflect by the ridership counts of Taipei Metro, which again saw an increase after a down year in 2003.

Besides the improvement in the payment method, the overall service quality also experienced improvements during the growth phase: - To accommodate the rapid increase of passenger in and out the stations, speedgates were used to replace turnstiles - To improve the service to foreigner workers and tourist, English names of the stations are shown on the maps and signs. - To improve passenger safety, screen doors are installed in most of the stations. - Track Intrusion Detection System are installed in stations without screen doors. - To improve overall service quality, free mobile phone connections and WiFi connections are provided in the stations. - Some trains has WiMAX-service installed allowing passengers to access internet during their train ride. - Some stations are equipped with mobile phone charging stations. - LED displays and LCD TVs are installed on train and stations to display the train’s current location and arrival time of the subsequent trains.

The growth phase of the Taipei Metro can be explained by the “Magic Bullet”[4] concept. The concept describes the relationship between demand, economics of scale, quality and cost. The increase in the demand of metro yields economies of scale. Economies of scale promotes the use of quality-improving technologies and lowers the cost per passenger. Lower cost and increase in quality of service leads to increase of demand.

Mature Phase: (2016 - )[2][edit]

Judging by the total passenger statistics, the Taipei Metro has reached its mature stage. However, there are not enough years of data to support his claim, as only the 2016 and 2017 data available. Refer to the next section (quantitative analysis) for the explanation of the life cycle (S-Curve) of Taipei Metro using the ridership statistics.

The ridership experience a slower increase during 2016-17, similar to 2002-03. However, Taipei Metro has continued to expand its network within the Taipei City, with the latest line opened in 2017, connecting to the airport. Additionally, 2 major lines are now under construction and proposal of 4 branch lines have been submitted. The 2 major lines includes the Circle Line, which will greatly improve the connectivity between the current lines.

Life Cycle Analysis - Qualitative[edit]

The data used in this analysis is the annual passenger counts of the Taipei Metro. The data began in 1996 and ends at 2018. The data are shown in the table below:(, 2018)

Year Annual Passenger Count
1996 11204000
1997 31080000
1998 60781000
1999 126952000
2000 268588000
2001 289643000
2002 324434000
2003 316189000
2004 350142000
2005 360730000
2006 383948000
2007 416230000
2008 450024000
2009 462472000
2010 505466000
2011 566404000
2012 602199000
2013 634961000
2014 679506000
2015 717512000
2016 739990000
2017 746067000

The data is used to estimate the three-parameter logistic function given as:

S(t)= [K/1+e^(-b(t-t0))]


S(t) = function of passenger counts with respect to years

K = saturation status level

b = coefficient of independent variable X in the linear regression model

t = time

t0 = inflection time (year which 1/2 K is achieved)

The parameter of the function can be estimated with the help of Microsoft Excel’s solver. The final function can be used to describe the life cycle of Taipei Metro (any transportation technologies).

The estimation of K is done using the least squared method. Using the Excel’s solver, the objective is set to have the maximum RSQ by changing the values of K. The values of b and t0 will also be dependent on K.

Constrains need to be set in order for the solver to work: (1) The K value cannot be lower than the maximum passenger counts in the current data, as saturation status should be the ultimate maximum and (2) The RSQ value as a maximum value of 1 as it is a correlation coefficient.

The table below shows the solution by solver:

Parameter Value
K 766539075.1
b 0.283291646
t0 2005.911348
RSQ 0.91003417

The S Curve (and real data) is plotted as such:



The saturation value is estimated to be just slightly higher than the current annual passenger count (2017). The estimation can be considered accurate due to the high RSQ number (close to 1). By observation, the predicted graph is a close representation of the real data, except for the sudden increase in year 1999 to 2000. The estimated function shows that Taipei Metro is reaching the saturation value and therefore reaching the maturation phase. There is any decrease in the ridership up to 2017 therefore the graph also doesn’t show any sign of the regeneration of growth.


  1. a b Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named :0
  2. a b c Hwang, T. (2007). 從歷史步道中看見臺北捷運. [ebook] 捷運技術半年刊 第 37 期. Available at: [Accessed 10 May 2018].
  3. (2018). Taipei Metro. [online] Available at: Taipei Metro. [Accessed 10 May 2018].
  4. Garrison, W. and Levinson, D. (2014). The Transportation Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA.
  5. (2018). 臺北捷運客運概況. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 May 2018].