Taiwan’s Taipei metropolitan area is home to about seven million people (almost a third of Taiwan’s total population). Yilan is a popular vacation destination for residents in Taiwan and visitors alike. Although Yilan’s estimated population is ~500,000, it swells during long weekends and holidays. Traveling between The Taipei Metro and Yilan can be a long and tedious endeavor.
In June of 2006, Taiwan’s Freeway 5 opened after the completion of a 15-year construction project to create an easier and safer commuting option between Taipei and Yilan. This project resulted in the Freeway 5, a 54 km route that connects the Taipei metropolitan area with the popular Yilan area Freeway 5 is home to the Hsuehshan Tunnel (which is 19.2 km long - or 11.93 miles). It is the second longest road tunnel in East Asia and the fifth longest road tunnel in the world.
During non-peak hours, the travel time in and around the tunnel (more specifically the 30km between Nangang and Toucheng) is approximately 30 minutes; during weekday peak hours, it can take an hour.
However, due to the increasing popularity of Yilan as a vacation and weekend getaway destination, there are more cars on the road and travel times can be up to two hours or longer! This is further aggravated by the tendency for drivers to unnecessarily drive through the tunnel at lower speeds than is required and with an increased distance between vehicles – leading to fewer vehicles in the tunnel at any given time than it was designed to hold.
There are three alternate routes between Taipei and Yilan (Hwy 9, Hwy 2, and Hwy 2c), however, due to the geographical constraints of the roadways, they are considered to be fairly treacherous and can take up to two hours to traverse – providing no time savings over the Hsuehshan Tunnel.
Learn more about Freeway 5, the Hsuehshan Tunnel, and the alternate Taipei and Yilan routes (Hwy 9, Hwy 2, and Hwy 2c) below.Taipei HWY info (English) from Devpost
Buses and trains do run between Taipei and Yilan. The railroad, which travels along a similar route to Hwy 9, runs every half hour, and the total travel time is between one and two hours - depending on the train speed.
Buses typically take the Freeway 5 route (joining the personal vehicle traffic) and the travel time is comparable to driving. Tour and commuter buses traveling from Taipei to Yilan are normally only half full (or less); however on weekends and holidays they can reach between 80 and 90 percent capacity.
All in all, the public transportation option is not a bad one, but it is often overlooked because – currently – it’s not a faster alternative to driving.
Upon reaching Yilan, there is local transportation available: taxis, local buses, and motorbikes for rent. However, taxis are considered to be expensive, and using the local buses requires a good amount of walking and waiting. So even if you choose to take public transportation to Yilan, you still have to solve the problem of how to get around once you’re there. This results in many people opting for the long Freeway 5 drive so that they can have their cars while in Yilan.
Current Traffic Management Strategies
The Taiwanese government has been working to overcome the heavy traffic through the Hsuehshan Tunnel using a variety of methods. They’ve instituted a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) policy during times of severe congestion. When the HOV policy is in effect only vehicles with more than three passengers can go through the tunnel.
Typically, the HOV policy runs from the afternoon of Sunday (or the last day of a long weekend from 3pm – 8pm (from Yilan to Taipei). The HOV policy is also implemented on special holidays. For example:
- During Tomb Sweeping Day (April 3 – 6, 2015):
- April 3 – 4, 2015 from 7am – 12pm (towards Yilan)
- April 5 – 6, 2015 from 3pm – 8pm (towards Taipei)
- During Dragon Boat Festival (June 19 – 21, 2015):
- June 19 – 20, 2015 from 7am – 12pm (towards Taipei)
Additionally, all interchanges use ramp metering control (one car on green) to keep the main freeway moving. Bus-only lanes are excluded from ramp control management, allowing buses to get on the freeway directly. Compared to regular vehicles, buses might save between 15 and 30 minutes in driving time during peak hours.
Information-oriented solutions have also been made available. Private companies have created free traffic information applications and websites that provide travel data to the public. There are many different informational tools like this, but people still choose to drive Freeway 5, adding to the congestion.
You could consider creating solutions which:
- Encourage public transportation use on Freeway 5
- Provide an on-demand shuttle service with driver amenities like food, screens, WiFi, comfortable seats, etc. that cater to the rider – thus encouraging use of public and group transportation.
- Use social media and crowdsourced data to identify traffic bottlenecks
- Allow commuters to plan carpools with their friends
- Allow commuters to estimate travel time for driving, bussing, and rail travel using directions and traffic information.
- Allow predictive travel time based on day and time of travel