The second stop on my Taiwan itinerary was to the southwestern city of Tainan. More on Tainan in future posts; here I want to talk about how I got there. Taiwan has a privately funded HSR system that runs along the entire western coast of the island, where some 90% of the population resides. This rail system is fantastic! The technology is Japanese, known it that country as the “bullet trains”. Top speed is 300 km/h. The system is new, first introduced in 2007. The HSR station is Taipei is integrated with the MRT at Taipei Main Station; you can walk out of your apartment a few blocks to the MRT and be on a HSR train in less than 30 minutes without ever going outside. Ticketing is excellent; there is an online service, plenty of automated machines in the stations and the old-fashioned ticket agents (real people). The trains are clean and upscale, similar to business class on the airlines.They have significantly reduced automobile traffic congestion and pollution.My travel time from Taipei to Tainan was one hour and forty-five minutes precisely on-time, a trip that takes the regular rail service six hours.
Why a system like this has not been operating for years on the San Francisco-Los Angeles and Dallas-Houston corridors is absolutely baffling!