MRT Vs MTR Or How Hong Kong’s And Taipei’s Mass Transit Systems Are Compared

The MRT is Taipei’s mass rapid transit system, an ever expanding underground train that ferries travelers from as South at Yongning (永宁站) to as far north as Danshui (淡水车站).

The MTR is the octopus that spirals underneath Hong Kong and links the city to all points in its periphery, including the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland. The airport express is a medium fast and very modern train, that looks like an overgrown MTR train, that leaves the city center for the airport and back.

The logo looks something like an octopus.

They also use a card to which you can add value at the MTR stations. It’s called the Octopus Card. However, contrary to Taipei, you can use this card to take the train, take the ferry, at McDonalds and other places. Pretty sweet. This is something that Taipei’s MRT should do as well, make it so you can use it to take the train and the HSR and give substantial rebates to people doing this. I’ve read that Seoul in Korea is doing something similar, but HK’s is better implanted and more useful.

I have only seen the metros of 5 different cities, from Montreal, Toronto, Taipei, Hong Kong and Bangkok. I have to say that the Asian metros are really more impressive than the North American ones, partially because they are so new. Montreal’s metro system is quite hold. Taipei’s opened in 1990, I believe.

Between Taipei’s and Hong Kong’s there are a few differences, so let’s get right into it.

The HK trains are different. They are wider, longer and higher than Taipei’s. They only have seats on the side, so that a lot more people can stand in the train. They have a center line of poles and grips so that it actually doubles the number of people that can take the trains.

The seats are all made out of a brushed metal, giving it a cool tech look. The color scheme is silver and red.

In the metro cars themselves, they use illuminated boards, telling the passengers which direction the train is going as a well as a LED panel to give out the information about the trains and where the are going. I found the illuminated boards really helpful, because when it came time to change trains, the board showed you real easily where to get off, because the target line would illuminate completely. As the train advances, the LED station lights go off, to show that we are past those stations.

Most of the stations in HK have glass doors to prevent you from stepping off the metro platform, which is interesting; in Taipei, you have these at Taipei Main Station (台北市主站) and a few other MRT stops. In HK however, the glass goes all the way up to the ceiling, making it impossible to even throw something on the track.

Another really interesting thing, is that the MTR fully integrates trains, such as the Airport Express. If the MRT can integrate the HSR trains (台灣高鐵車) even more, this would be a step further than what has been done in HK. By all means, I believe that Taipei’s MRT system has the most chance of growing, since ideally it could like different counties as well. I think the best situation would be to actually have HSR trains that leave from MRT stations and spider the country.

Until now, unless you are in Banqiao (板桥) or Taipei (台北), the HSR stations (台灣高鐵車站) are really far away from the city centers, which makes them a bit dodgy to use; if I have to travel 30 minutes to get to the HSR station (台灣高鐵車站) and end up paying more than a normal train, only to have to travel again at the end of the line 30 minutes, do I really gain a lot by using the HSR?

No, I have run into that problem myself, when I traveled from Hsinchu (新竹) to Taipei (台北). At the time that I was using it, the Taipei Main Station HSR wasn’t yet open, so the closest stop was Banqiao (板桥). I would have to travel to Jhubei (竹北市) either by taxi or scooter (even if the HSR station is called Hsinchu, it’s located in Jhubei). It’s about 30 minutes. Then take the HSR to Banqiao. Then take the MRT to Taipei Main Station. I calculated that I would only save a few minutes off the normal train ride and pay more.

Anyways, I hope that the HSR situation gets resolved somehow, because I just love the train. It rocks. It’s so fast and quiet, you barely notice that you are on the train. I am planning on taking to Kaoshiung (高雄市) sometime in the next few weeks for a daytrip.

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Author: range

I'm mathematician/IT strategist/blogger from Canada living in Taipei.

8 thoughts on “MRT Vs MTR Or How Hong Kong’s And Taipei’s Mass Transit Systems Are Compared”

  1. Hi Range, glad to hear you guys enjoyed Hong Kong and you actually used MTR, huh? The Turbo from Airport to the City check-in/out is the most fascinating train I have ever tried when the new Airport was opened but true, everything here is expensive, from small Styrofoam for a lunch. You should have tried the TRAMcars, it’s one of my favourite than the MTR really.

  2. Taiwan is implementing an one-card-for-all system that will allow a card holder to use any mass transit system in the country.

  3. A couple of points you may have over looked.

    Taiwanese banks are now offering a joint easy/visa card that eliminates the need to add value and dramtically expands the uses of the payment platform.

    Rail lines connecting the TRA and THSRC stations are under construction in Hsinchu, Tainan, and Jhongli.

  4. Great stuff! Thanks for the info.

    The rail lines are in construction, but will take some time before they come operational. My guess is not before a few years, unless I am mistaken. Though if we take Hsinchu as an example, having a TRA train stop at the Hsinchu TSR station wouldn’t be that complicated.

  5. Taipei HSR station is open now. New service is in planning. Direct train from Taipei to Kaoshiun, no stop at Taichun and Banchiao.
    Planning a new station is a very difficult thing. The planners all knows to place them near the existing stations if not connected. The hard part is to find the space. HK is in has unique way to reslove this problem. The airport express stations are located in new landfill near existing MTR. The Kowloon side station is also situated in new landfill area but not too close to existing MTR line. In Taiwan where stations are in landlock area, the planner can only place new stations away from the downtown. But new town will grow around the new stations and connections will be made. Look at Japan, ShinkanShian always stops at outskirt of city, and the city has gorw to cover these previously remote location.
    I am not saying that it’s easier in HK. I still thinks that H.K. has done a lot of awesome first-rate planning for transportation.

  6. One thing that is possible in Taiwan, is to place the HSR station underneath the TRA stations. However, I doubt that this will happen. Banqiao and Taipei Main Station are the only ones where this was feasible.

    I can just imagine the headache of construction underground train stations and railways.

    Still, it would be very efficient.

    Thanks for you comment.

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