The Prerequisites of Modernisation: A Closer Look at the Transportation System in Taipei

During the colonial period of Taiwan, the Japanese government made an effort in modernising Taiwan in different ways. Under the rule of Goto Shinpei, who at the same time was the first director of the South Manchuria Railway Company and the head of the Japan Railway Bureau, the base of Taiwan’s modern railway system was laid in the early period of urban correction and development plan. Le Corbusier emphasised on speed and traffics in his master plans because he envisioned cities in enormous scales; while Goto’s railway construction was prepared for a growth in scale of districts. Although it started up with low-tech human-labour carts, its network, starting from Taipei connecting to other areas, played an important role in setting up a favourable environment for the future development.

Push car railways were introduced in Taiwan by the Japanese and the Railway Ministry is set up in Taipei. The Western Line, connecting major cities along the West corridor was completed in 1908. This sharply shorten the travelling time between Taipei and the cities on the South. These railway links were both used by citizens and factories. There were both public and private industrial lines to transport products around Taiwan. Therefore, the introduction of the railway system brought large extent of economical efficiency to not only Taipei, but the whole Taiwan; helping her proceed towards modernisation.

From the maps of Taipei city, we can observe the emphasis on railway by the government. Main roads from the inner city and other urban areas would lead to Taipei station. It was so important that the station was indicated in almost every maps as a landmark. This transportation pub became another city centre of Taipei. Commercial and other activities were induced around it, This in turn brought up an urban development passively.

In addition to the railway system developed, highways were also build around the city. The modern idea of having highways was the result of increasing reliance on automobile by Taiwanese. This indicates that the Japanese colonial government saw the importance of speed and therefore decided to build this series of infrastructural system to support the modernisation of Taipei. Bus services also started to operate in Taipei and other more urbanised areas.These bus stations were mostly located on the railway stations as the secondary transportation service. Owing to the competition with motor vehicles on the road, the Railway Ministry ended up purchasing and confiscating roads running parallel to railways. Although it hindered the expansion of speed at that time, but this ended up providing more sufficient land resources for the future expansion of Taiwan Railway Administration, becoming a stepping stone for further modernising Taiwan.

A great transportation system supports the efficiency of a modern city through speed. It is also fundamental to the urban sprawl, urbanising and modernising a large area. The Japanese colonial government’s construction of the basic railway system centred at Taipei provided one of the prerequisites need for the modern urban development of the whole Taiwan. Therefore, it is definitely more than just a low-tech important infrastructure network from Japan, but an important construction in Taiwan’s development history.

Bibliography and Reference:

Liao, Cheng-hung. Urbanization in Taiwan: 1900-1985. Taipei: National Taiwan University, 1987.
Rubinstein, Murray A. Taiwan: A New History. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1999.
Kwok, R. Yin-Wang. Globalizing Taipei: The Political Economy of Spatial Development. New York: Routledge, 2005.

2 Comments on “The Prerequisites of Modernisation: A Closer Look at the Transportation System in Taipei

  1. This articles mentioned about how the Japanese developed the transportation system in Taipei during the colonial period of Taiwan. It was clear to understand which transportation systems were developed during that period and some reasons behind the development of the transportation system. It can be found out that one of the prerequisites of modernization is to develop well transportation system, which could increase the efficiency.

    However, I am curious to know more about how the Japanese develop the transportation system according to specialties in Taipei, such as geography, culture, etc. Compared to other cities, Taipei is located in an small island, Taiwan, where also has a lot of mountains. This might be one of factors of transportation systems development. This would be more interested to discover the specialties of transportation system in Taipei compared to another cities.

  2. How would you compare the transportation system of Taipei to the ones in Japanese cities such as Tokyo or Osaka or Fukuoka, since they are both made by the same companies and people? How has the current Taiwanese transportation system been updated to fulfill growing needs?

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