Proposed ban on sitting in Taipei Main Station lobby sparks heated debate

Opponents of TRA plan will mount campaign to occupy lobby floor this Saturday

Taipei Main Station lobby (Facebook, Lin Chia-lung photo)

Taipei Main Station lobby (Facebook, Lin Chia-lung photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The plan to indefinitely prohibit sitting on the floor of the lobby at Taipei Main Station has set off a heated debate.

The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) on Monday (May 18) announced its intention to permanently ban visitors from sitting on the sprawling checkered floor of the station. Throngs of people in the lobby, where Taipei Metro, Taoyuan Metro, Taiwan High Speed Rail, and Taiwan Railways converge, were a common sight until the TRA introduced a moratorium on gatherings in February in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The TRA cited hygiene and image concerns as reasons for the proposed ban, which has been met with both support and opposition. Transportation and Communications Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) is against the idea, saying the lobby should be partially opened to residents after the pandemic abates, wrote UDN.

Measures should be implemented to ensure the lobby is accessible to visitors, including migrant workers, who use it as a venue for socializing on special occasions such as holidays and festivals, said Lin. He added that the TRA would conduct an assessment before introducing any new rules.

Opponents of the proposal launched a Facebook campaign to “Take over the Taipei Main Station lobby floor” at noon this Saturday (May 23) in protest of the ban. Participants are invited to “sit, lie, sing, and picnic” on the floor but are advised to maintain social distancing.

While the campaign's organizers decried the move to “limit free access to public spaces for commercial interests,” others left comments supporting the measure. Some questioned the sense of inciting people to congregate while the country fights to ward off the coronavirus, while others believe train stations should serve only transportation purposes rather than as social milieus, reported UDN.

Purposefully gathering at this time could incur a penalty in line with the guidelines of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), according to the TRA.

Taipei Main Station lobby (TRA photo)