A Ride through the EcoMobility Festival Area

In my previous post with pictures of Haenggunk-dong after the EcoMobility World Festival, I promised to upload some videos. Here they are! They show a ride through this area along the main street and then through many side alleys before getting back on the main road. If the videos feel strange, then it’s because I used the Youtube stabilization feature. Here’s the first video, which ends with a funny surprise:

Then we got back on the main street and experienced various sorts of traffic on the streets:

Haenggunk Neighborhood After the EcoMobility Festival

After EcoMobility (7)On Friday, October 25, I revisited Haengkung-dong in Suwon. This neighborhood was the showcase for the first EcoMobility World Festival. I wrote about it several times in the last few months. Almost one month ago the sustainable transport-experiment finished and the area opened again for cars. This was my first visit since the end of the festival. I didn’t have any high expectations and actually, I thought that the situation would be bad (a pedestrian-unfriendly area) but I was positively surprised. Come with me on a virtual walk through Haengkung-dong!

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Sustainable Transportation in Korea

UN-HABITAT published some weeks ago the GRHS 2013 (Global Report on Human Settlements) with a focus on sustainable human transport. Even though the report sometimes mentions Korea/Seoul and it contains an info-box about the bike sharing system in Changwon (p. 137),  a background study about sustainable transport in East Asia was more interesting for me. This report analyzed the condition of transport in China, Japan, Korea (South AND North), Mongolia and Taiwan. The authors seem to be great experts about mainland China and Shanghai but not so much about other regions. Nevertheless, it gives a nice context about sustainability in the transport sector of Korea. This post is going to summarize their main findings related to Korea without going too deep into the topic.

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Seoul’s New Taxi Fare

For the first time in four years the taxi fare in Seoul rises. The basic fare is going to be raised by about 25%. Previously, the basic fare was 2,400 KRW but from now, Oct. 12, a taxi ride will cost at least 3,000 KRW. The taximeter also climbs a little bit faster because previously it was 100 KRW per 144 meters but now it’s 100 KRW per 142 meters.

Overview of Taxi Fare in Seoul Metropolitan Area

  • Normal Taxi – Basic Fare:  3,000 KRW
  • Normal Taxi – Fee per 100 Meters: 70 KRW per 100 meters (or 100 won per 142 meters)
  • Black Taxis and Van Taxi – Basic Fare: 5,000 KRW
  • Fee at night: 1,000 KRW
  • Fee to call a taxi: 2,000 KRW
  • Additional costs: 20% surcharge for travels between Seoul and other cities

It may take one month until all taximeters are adjusted to the new fare system, so please don’t be surprised if the driver suddenly adds 600 KRW to the final amount! Usually, passengers travel 6 km in average which means that they have to pay 10.9% more.

Improvement of Taxi Service

Seoul’s mayor Park Won-Soon said about the changes:

“Fee hike was inevitable because compensation for drivers had to be guaranteed to enhance taxi service. The taxi industry should also reflect on themselves and enhance service for a comfortable travel.”

Actually, Seoul’s new taxi fare comes in bundle with some measures that try to improve the taxi service. The most important is that taxis aren’t allowed to refuse passengers and from now on it will be fined with 200,000 KRW and up to 40 hours of “law-abiding and kindness education”. Second, extra (=illegal) charges to transport passengers will be fined with the same amount. Third, Smoking in cabs is forbidden, for passengers and drivers! It isn’t even forbidden that drivers smoke if they don’t transport passengers. That adds one more space to Seoul’s smoking-free zones! The last notable measure is that all taxis are going to be equipped with security cameras until the end of the year. I hope that these measures are going to improve the quality of taxi service. I’m sure that it will give a lot of stress to the drivers.

 

Related Sources and Information: The Dong-A-Ilbo | Korea Joongang Daily

What’s the story with Suncheon Bay’s PRT?

There has been some confusion over Suncheon Bay’s PRT system after the head of SC-PRT announced that it was stopping trial services that have been open to the public according to this article by NSP Communications.

The transport system was originally supposed to begin operations in April on the same day that the Suncheon Bay Garden Expo 2013 got underway. Unfortunately, the PRT was far from ready and didn’t open to the public until nearly four months later on August 15. Check out the view from one of the pods filmed back in May in the video below.

Despite this, the system is still in its testing phase and the article states the mixed messages emanating from the PRT operator. One director in the company said that the test operations would only be open to the public until Chuseok, while the CEO of the company claimed that they would be open to the public until the promised date of October 20 when the Garden Expo ends.

Earlier in the year four government officials leading the PRT project were also disciplined after it was found that the company constructing the line had already been chosen in advance.

Unfortunately most major light rail projects in Korea thus far have been marred by either accidents, fallout between companies or extended delays in opening. Considering that there are plans for numerous other light rail projects – not just in Seoul but around the country, one hopes that planners will learn from the mistakes of others.

The Truth About Korea’s Invisible Skyscraper Tower Infinity

towerinfinity-3

(Source: Archinect)

Since a couple of days my news feed is filled with articles with the headlines “Seoul’s Invisible Tower”, “World’s First Invisible Skyscraper in Seoul, Korea”, “Infinity Tower Will Light Up Seoul’s Sky” and so on. On the right you can see a picture of picture of the planned skyscraper. The origin of this buzz is an article at Archinect about the official permission to begin construction. A lot of friends also posted articles on Facebook, which emphasized the obscurity of this project. All articles contain wrong information which I will try to correct as best as possible. This article is going to clarify the location and context of the project.

While doing research for this issue, I wasn’t easy to find Korean articles about this building. It seems like that the official name of the building is “Cheongna City Tower”. The winner of the design competition GDS Architects named it as “Tower Infinity”. In this post I’ll just use the Tower Infinity or Infinity Tower because this is probably the least important mistake.

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Full Operation of Night Bus Services

Back in April we wrote about the beginning of night buses on two routes. The trial was successful with over 220,000 passengers (2,100 people per night!) and so Seoul is going to begin operation of 7 new night lines from September 12. A survey among Seoulites also found out that 88% of the people support bus services throughout the night.

The night buses will also get a special branding: They are going to be called “Owl buses” and this is the concept behind it:

owl-buses

This map in Korean shows where the nine routes are going to operate:

seoul-night-lines

 

Overview of Night Lines in Seoul

N26: Western Seoul Depot – Jungang Depot (강서차고지~중랑차고지) *already operating since April*

N37: Jingwan Depot – Songpa Depot (진관차고지~ 송파차고지) *already operating since April*

N13: Sanggye-dong – Songpachagoji (상계동~송파차고지)

N16: Dobongsan Depot – Onsu-dong (도봉산차고지~온수동)

N61: Yangcheon Depot – Nowon Station (양천차고지~노원역)

N62:  Yangchoen Depot – Myeonmok-dong (양천차고지~면목동)

N10: Ui-dong – Seoul Station (우이동~서울역)

N30: Gangdong Depot – Seoul Station (강동차고지~서울역)  

N40: Bangbae-dong – Seoul Station (방배동~서울역)

 

During the trial the fare price was only at 1,050 KRW but along the start of the other night lines from September 12 the fare will rise to 1,850 KRW. Of course, the bus drivers of the N-lines will have higher wages than their colleagues of the daily services. They aren’t allowed to work during the day to prevent fatigue. The special features of the bus is that the drivers will be separated by a special partition. This should prevent drunk passengers to to attack or distract the driver. Enjoy the ride through Seoul’s night!

Opening of EcoMobility Festival

Today on September 1 was the opening of EcoMobility World Festival in Suwon. When I arrived there at 5 pm, the festival was already in full swing. There was a large stage in front of the Haenggung Palace. It was so amazing to see the result of months of constructions and planning. Someone told me that the last construction sites finished in the night. There was still a smell of fresh asphalt in the air.

The main road outside the neighborhood is also partially closed. Only buses and taxis are allowed to drive on the lane towards south, the other lane was open was all traffic and the rest was kept free of traffic. I’m not sure if it’s going to be the whole month like this because it is a very important street in Suwon with a lot of traffic.

EcoMobility

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KTX Collides With Another Train in Daegu

On Saturday morning a Mugonghwa bound to Seoul got too close to a KTX train, which was on his way from Seoul to Busan. The KTX was hit at the last passenger wagon and derailed. The accident happened at the entrance to Daegu train station and this means that both trains were on very low speed. There was a second KTX train standing on third rail track right at the accident place, who got also damaged, because the Mugonghwa pushed the KTX towards this standing vehicle. You can see pictures by Yonhap News Agency here and see a graphic about the accident place here.

All train operations were put on hold at first and later that day most trains only operated between Seoul and Gimcheon/Gumi and between Busan and East-Daegu (Dong-Daegu). It came to a large chaos at train stations and at the transfer places to buses for the route between Gumi and East-Daegu. KORAIL organized taxis and buses to bridge the part.  It was criticized that KORAIl, esp. the staff at Daegu Station, didn’t inform passengers about the circumstances and it took them too long to find alternatives.

There were no injuries among the passengers of both trains. One man called the ambulance and went to the hospital but he had nothing serious. Passengers used the emergency exits through the window to get out of the train. Investigations have to be made but there are assumptions that the Mugonghwa oversaw signals and the train conductor didn’t wait until the KTX entered the station completely. Removing the train wagons will take until early morning of Sunday, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Train operations on Sunday should work according to normal schedule.

 

Resources and Related Links: Yonhap News 1 | Yonhap News 2

 

Update on Preparations of EcoMobility Festival

IMG_3758On Tuesday, August 20th, I was again at the festival area of the EcoMobility Festival. I wanted to see how far the preparations proceeded. You remember that the festival starts in September, 11 days after I took the pictures (and less than a week after this post).  I was surprised in many ways and I got a totally different impression of the neighborhood than at my first time. Please read beforehand my other posts about the festival (General Introduction to EcoMobility World FestivalPictures of my first visit).

Let’s start with the way towards the district. The road outside of the festival area got a new surface not too long ago. The street lines are still missing but the traffic is already operating there as usual.

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