The light rail line in Yongin connecting Giheung-Station to Everland operates since a month. We wrote about the opening of this Everline and all the issues after the completion. Now after Yongin’s Everline finally opened, the number of passengers doesn’t meet the expectations at all. However, the private operators are going to get their operating costs fully covered by Yongin City.
The first two days of operation looked very promising. I remember that I saw pictures where the trains were packed with passengers. What could be the reasons for this? On the first weekend the usage of Yongin’s Everline was for free. The second reason is that it was a new line and some kind of a tourist attraction. People wanted to try it out. Especially citizens of Yongin, who live with the completed elevated constructions since three years, could finally take a look at it from the inside.
The amount of passengers was monitored and a result about the the first month was published. The Joongang Daily wrote a very detailed article about the result. Less than 30 percent of the forecast are using Yongin’s Everline. On average 9,421 people use it per day. There are around 24 people in each train. Of course, the trains are smaller than the vehicles of Seoul Metro. Each Everline train can transport a maximum of 226 people. The forecast of the Gyeonggi Research Institute in 2011 was 32,000 passengers per day.
The reason for these calculations lies in the wrong expectation of population development and residential units in this area. Everland (with Carribean Bay) and the Korean Folk Village are major attractions in that area but they alone aren’t able to attract people to use the Everline. Even if, this would mean that most of the users would use the LRT on holidays and weekends. It also connects four universities (Kangnam University is in walkable distance to Giheung-Station), which is a nice idea. I think that most of the universities have shuttles to larger transport hubs or they have Gyeonggi-buses.
Main Problem: Too Expensive
The obvious problem of the Everline is that it doesn’t allow free transfer from other public transport. So people, who took the Bundang-Line to Giheung, would rather transfer to a local bus instead of using the Everline. Usage of the Everline costs 1,100 KRW, which is in comparison to free transfer (or 100 to 200 KRW for long-distance transfer) too much. Yongin Everline has to be integrated into Seoul Metropolitan’s fare-system. That sounds easy but private operators and officials have to agree on this matter. I don’t know all details of the problem but I think that after the three year-long dispute between the operators and Yongin, they won’t easily agree on that. Other problems are that the LRT doesn’t bring you faster to your destination, except if the streets are very congested.
Now, the tricky thing is that the operators don’t have to care a lot about low revenue, because if they aren’t possible to cover their costs, the government has to pay them for the next 30 years. That’s how the PPT was arranged. I believe that without such an agreement, they would have already made free transfer possible. Actually, without this agreement, the Everline would have never been built in my opinion. The Joongang Daily’s article also mentions that Yongin took very high debts for this project and so they aren’t able to finance any other projects like bike lanes or road extensions.