The Kaohsiung-based Aloha Bus Corp. has backed down in a heated dispute with the Taipei City Government, agreeing to relocate its bus stops as requested by the city by January 9.
The freeway shuttle bus company said, however, that company executives had yet to come to a decision on where the new transit stops should be.
Taipei's Transportation Department issued an ultimatum last Friday asking Aloha to abandon its pickup points along congested Chengde Road and move to the city's new transit center near the Taipei Railway Station by January 4.
It threatened to continue fining the bus company if it collected passengers at the old stops.
The city had already fined Aloha more than NT$4 million over the past month for illegally soliciting passengers, double-parking and parking next to Chengde Road sidewalks marked with red lines.
Taipei traffic police issued nearly a dozen tickets yesterday morning alone to Aloha buses stationed along the major north-south roadway in the city that previously served many freeway bus companies as launching points for their bus services.
Aloha passengers bickered yesterday with Taipei City councilors who arrived at the company's pickup points along Chengde Road to inspect the company's progress in relocating its stops as ordered by the local government last week.
"(Taipei City councilors) have no right to say that passengers are accomplices of Aloha," a man told reporters, claiming he had been blocked from boarding a bus by the councilors.
But the elected officials replied that by riding Aloha buses, the passengers were not cooperating with the government in its effort to improve traffic in the area and provide greater convenience to city residents.
"If Aloha Bus Corp. refuses to cooperate, the government will issue larger fines for negligence starting Wednesday, January 4. Fines will start at NT$10,000 and increase progressively," said the councilors.
"As a last resort, the government will cut off electricity and water to the ticketing offices if the company does not relocate by January 16," they added.
Last August, the city government helped 14 bus companies relocate their ticket offices and pickup stops to a transit center near the Taipei Railway Station in a bid to relieve the constant traffic jams caused by shuttle and tourist buses on Chengde Road.
Aloha claimed via the Kaohsiung City Government in September, however, that it was undergoing internal adjustments and was not in a position to obey the relocation order. The company applied for a postponement of the relocation deadline.
The Taipei City Government allowed the bus company until November 15 to move, but when it saw Aloha had made no effort to move to the new transit site by then, it began enforcing a ban the company's buses operating on Chengde Road in December.
Arguing that the company was legally operated and that the city government was depriving passengers of their rights, Aloha ignored the ban and continued to provide service, while separately filing a lawsuit against Transportation Department head Jason Lin for improper administration.
Lin, however, insisted that his administrative order to block Aloha was legal.
According to Lin, after the Transportation Department made a request to Aloha via the Kaohsiung City Government to cooperate in September, authorities there issued a document to the bus operator ordering it to "operate within the designated routes and bus stops as arranged by the Taipei City government."
"That's without even mentioning that the operating license of Aloha Bus Corp. has yet to be renewed," Lin said. "It's been in violation of the Highway Act since November."
Aloha's buses are currently operating under an administrative order of the Kaohsiung City Government, as a Ministry of Transporation and Communications review committee has yet to process the company's request for a new license. This has led Lin to wonder if the Kaohsiung City Government has reversed its statement of three months ago asking Aloha to abide by city rules in Taipei.