By Benjamin Dunn
I remember during my childhood I used to have a deep fascination with trains and even had dreams of operating one someday. Whenever I saw a train while on the road, my parents would immediately pull over to the side just so I could watch it pass for a minute or two and hear the click-clack as the train rolled over the tracks. That love for trains has carried over to my journalist endeavors and now I write quite a bit about public transportation and urban development. And since public transit in Los Angeles isn’t particularly amazing, most of my experiences haven’t been the best. My friends from Asia had told me countless times that public transportation in there was bounds and leaps ahead of that in the United States. So yes, one of my highlights during my trip to Taiwan simply my first ride on the Taipei MRT. I mean, what trip to Taipei is complete without a trip on the MRT?
I took the Tamsui-Xinyi Line (淡水信義線) down to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Station (中正紀念堂) to visit Mr. Chiang since I’d never actually gone to the memorial before. After getting off, I wanted to wait until the next trains headed in so I could capture the essence of the station (yes, if you ever happen to travel with me, you will have to spend a lot of time waiting for me to take pictures of almost everything).
After finding a good angle to capture the trains and waiting a minute or two, the warning lights flashed for a few seconds and then two trains entered the platform almost simultaneously, something you’d never see in Los Angeles. For a few seconds, it was a bustle of activity. Passengers rushed across the platform to board another line while others headed up the escalator to end their journey here. The station became a flurry of activity, as people hurried on with their business, attempting to squeeze into packed trains or onto narrow escalators. This was suddenly one of the densest areas in the city.
After say, half a minute, the warning whistles sounded, train doors shut, and suddenly, the platform was enveloped in silence, interrupted only by the occasional ringing of a station announcement. And few minutes later, the cycles continued on as two more trains entered the station.
To many, a station is just a means to an end, a gateway to a destination and just something they pass through on a daily basis. But to me, coming from a city with an abysmal transit system, the station represented transit done right through the Taiwanese mentality.
It was the Taiwanese way of approaching work, of its dedication to create the best product possible and of a willingness to work together and sacrifice some things to create a system that serves the city and benefits everyone, resident and tourist alike. It’s an aspect I find extremely lacking in Los Angeles (and even on some level in the Bay Area), and perhaps, one of the biggest deterrents to creating a truly functional transit system here.
If you’re interested in reading my take on the differences between Taipei’s MRT vs. Los Angeles’ Metro System, check my story here.
This photo essay is part of the “Through the Lens of an ABT” series.