Sunday, June 22, 2014

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Kaohsiung is Taiwan's scooter capital

6/22/2014 Taiwan Explorer

Earlier today I have linked to an article on my Facebook page that was related to the future Kaohsiung Light Railway. The first photos have emerged today of what will be Taiwan's version of a tram, something commonly seen all across Europe. I'm a fan of trams, and I welcome such positive developments in Kaohsiung. However due to the widely acknowledged failure of the Kaohsing Metro gaining enough ridership to break even, I'm wondering about whether people will actually ride the new trains, especially because I was under the impression that people in Kaohsiung really ride scooters a lot. My opinions have caused some huffy responses by local expats, one of them even claiming "people in Kaohsiung don't prefer scooters". That remark made me curious. I decided to visit the website of the National Statistics of ROC, and analyze the ownership of scooters and cars by region to see which city or county has the highest density of scooters, and where does Kaohsiung stand among other parts of Taiwan. The website is fairly easy to navigate. I went to this page, selected everything, and exported it as an excel file. I then redesigned the layout, translated everything into English, analyzed the data, and made a few charts which I want to share with you below.

The Taiwanese government is collecting data since the late 1990s.

The data indicates Kaohsiung is the scooter capital of Taiwan

The data, that breaks down vehicle types by region is vast, and my intention is not to analyze every detail, I will mainly focus on passenger cars and motorcycles (which are mostly scooters). Interestingly, the regions with high car ownership (registered cars per 1000 people) are located in Central Taiwan: Taichung, Nantou, and Hsinchu. Scooter ownership on the other hand is the highest in Southern Taiwan: Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Tainan, Chiayi, and Penghu. Interestingly Taipei is far behind, especially in scooter ownership, that's because of the excellent public transportation, that's hasn't found its match elsewhere in the country (and perhaps in the greater region).

With nearly 325 registered passenger cars per 1000 people, Hsinchu County has the highest passenger car registration level in Taiwan. | Click to enlarge.

With 762 registered motorcycles per 1000 people, Pingtung County has the highest motorcycle registration level in Taiwan. | Click to enlarge.

When it comes to the sheer quantity, New Taipei has most registered motorcycles, followed by Kaohsiung and Taichung. | Click to enlarge.

While it's interesting to see an overview of all cities and counties in Taiwan, I think a comparison among larger cities makes much more sense. So let's see which Taiwanese city has the highest scooter registration level of them all:

Kaohsiung is Taiwan's scooter capital. | Click to enlarge.

With 752 registered scooters per 1000 people Kaohsiung is by far the no 1 scooter city in Taiwan, followed by Tainan with 702, and Chiayi with 694 registered scooters per 1000 people. Claiming that the high scooter ownership Kaohsiung is not part of the reason the Metro has failed so far is disingenuous. How big of a problem this is, has to be seen. The good news is that according to the data scooter ownership is in decline all across Taiwan in the past 2 years (and the strongest in Tainan and Kaohsiung, each -8.49% YoY in 2013), while car ownership is on the rise in the past 3 years, +2.4% on average for all of Taiwan.

This table shows that Kaohsiung is 24% above the Taiwanese average of registered motorcycles per 1000 people, Taipei on the other hand is 37% below average. When it comes to car registrations, Taichung is 17% above the Taiwanese average, while New Taipei is 20% below.


While the number of registered scooters in each region is an interesting information, it would be even more interesting to see what is the average usage of a scooter in each part of Taiwan (for example how many kilometers are made on average per year). Maybe people in Kaohsiung register a lot of scooters, but don't use them as often or as extensively as people in other cities? It's possible. Another problem with this data is the fact that many people from smaller counties commute to bigger cities and therefore increase scooter density (for example from Pingtung to Kaohsiung, from Hsinchu County to Hsinchu City). Of course we would need to know the % of these scooter commuters to get a more accurate image, but I think collecting such data would not be very easy (yet not impossible). Kaohsiung is most likely the city with the highest scooter density in Taiwan, a kind of a scooter capital, but take the data with a pinch of salt. What is definitely true is the fact that Southern Taiwan has the highest scooter density, Central Taiwan the highest car density, and Northern Taiwan the best public transportation network.

Will the Kaohsiung light rail finally kill the scooter addiction?

Related: Taiwan Scooterland, What are foreigners doing in Taiwan?