Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-15 03:29 PM
Although a growing number of people throughout Taipei City and many of its burgeoning suburbs have come to rely on the Taipei MRT to reach their workplace, for those transferring to the new complex in Xinzhuang, there is not a nearby line, much less an MRT station in the neighborhood, which means anyone who does not live in the vicinity will find themselves driving cars, riding motorcycles and crowding onto buses between the new offices and wherever they currently live. .
While the final decision on the huge relocation effort has been in place for almost half a year, Taipei City and New Taipei City officials have made little progress in working out the kinks in what promises to be a transportation nightmare for many people. With no MRT line and limited bus service at present, the daily round-trip commute could easily eat up at least two hours of every day for many people. Many civil servants scheduled to make the move will be giving up public transportation for private wheels, either two-wheel or four-wheel variety, and roads in the areas around the new office complex could be clogged from morning until night.
The largest government organ involved in this ‘great migration’ will be the Ministry of Culture. Currently working a convenient one station away from Taipei Main Station on the MRT line, in an area with plentiful bus lines and lots of commercial and public facilities, functionaries of the Ministry will face the drudgery of a long commute once the big move takes place during the new year. Even those who opt to take the MRT as far as they can will still need to hop a ten-minute ride on a shuttle bus to reach the complex.
Equally troubling to many agencies that will be moving is that many critical government offices such as the President’s Office, the Executive Yuan and the majority of central government ministries will stay put in their current locations in Taipei, Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai tells the media, "The thing that worries me most about the future is how we at the Ministry of Culture will maintain contact with organizations like the Legislative Yuan and the Executive Yuan in the future." Minister Lung says that once a legislative session begins, many officials will be "stuck" in the Legislative Yuan for a good part of the year, meaning they will face frequent commute that eat up time and involve transportation costs and budgeting
The Ministry of Culture hopes to alleviate some part of the commuting woes by beefing up its offices in its Nanhai Road location in Taipei. The ministry’s “Nanhai Workshop" will serve as alternate headquarters and logistical points for many departments and 19 affiliated units in carrying out congressional liaisons and other duties in central Taipei.
The Ministry of Culture is unique in that its duties involve rafts of consultation meetings with experts, artists, performers and others in the arts community in order to keep cultural events flowing throughout the year. .
Many government offices maintain fixed budgets for traveling expenses, and the heavy meeting schedules of Ministry of Culture personnel may find this a big headache once they make the move to Xinzhuang. It is a big problem the ministry has dubbed the "Big Disaster," and it could play very much like a disaster movie for the ones who are re-assigned to the Taipei suburb.
On Monday six departments numbering some 1500 personnel in the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) will pack up their equipment and files and start the exodus to Xinzhuang. The CLA has previously been a ‘homeless turtle’ in Chinese parlance, operating solely out of rented offices scattered around the city, and the new location will at least offer them the convenience of easier coordination of council operations. After taking off Friday to box up their personal belongings and supplies, the CLA will be among the first organizations to test the waters of the new location beginning this week.
One CLA staffer who lives in Neihu says she has spent several weekends testing the new commute. She notes that the drive takes more than 30 minutes on weekends and is very worried that on weekdays close to peak commuter periods it will take at least an hour to make the trip.
The nearly 600 staffers of the Council of Hakka Affairs and the Council of Indigenous Peoples will be joining the CLA in Xinzhuang before the end of the year. Many say their current commute time will be stretched from the current fifteen minutes to as much as two hours. For a lot of staffers used to leaving home at 8:30AM to go to work, the new offices will require them to set out at 6:30AM in order to show up at work on time. As some note, they could almost make the run from Taipei to Kaohsiung, on High Speed Rail in that amount of time.
Many employees are also concerned that while the move will mean that previously scattered offices will now be under one roof, the remote location will mean that they won’t be able to put in too many hours of overtime lest they face having no way to get home late at night. The distance will also make things infinitely more complicated for those who frequently go on business trips as part of their jobs. .
Another employee who has checked out the logistics of traveling to the new office location says that coming back late at night could be a hassle even for those who are willing to splurge on a taxi. "The area is very desolate,” he says, and “most taxi drivers don’t normally go into such remote sports."