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Blood on the tracks: MRT violence prompts review of priority seat rules

06/19/2024 06:05 PM
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CNA photo June 18, 2024
CNA photo June 18, 2024

Taipei, June 19 (CNA) The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Tuesday it is considering expanding access to priority seats on the Taipei metro following a spate of violent confrontations between senior citizens and younger passengers.

Chien Hui-jiuan (簡慧娟), head of the ministry's Social and Family Affairs Administration, said the proposal is aimed at changing the clause in the People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act to include more potential users.

Currently, the law mandates that public transportation facilities without reserved seats shall set aside priority seats for the "disabled, elderly, women and children," at a rate of no less than 15 percent of available seats.

The amendment will seek to replace the wording with "those with other actual needs," Chien said, following two violent incidents related to this issue on the Taipei MRT within the past eight days.

On June 11, a 25-year-old woman on the MRT Red Line refused to yield her seat to an 80-year-old woman, contending that she was exhausted after a 12-hour shift.

The woman then physically assaulted another elderly passenger, an 80-year-old man, who attempted to intervene.

After MRT staff mediation, the man agreed not to seek legal action if the woman apologized, which she did when the three passengers involved in the incident alighted at the next station.

After apologizing to the man, the woman, who appeared to be in emotional distress, began repeatedly bashing her head against a pillar in the station to the point where she started to bleed profusely.

On Tuesday, a 29-year-old man on the MRT Green Line, who claimed that he just had diarrhea, was slapped by a 75-year-old man for refusing to yield his seat.

The incident sparked further quarrels among passengers, including one who shouted "You don't have many years left to live!”to the older passenger.

The two incidents were among 22 reported disputes between passengers over priority seats this year.

In response, Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) said Wednesday that the metro operator will discuss the issue with regulatory authorities.

In addition, the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation Metro Service clarified that it cannot independently decide on adjusting the priority seating system or replacing the seats, as these decisions fall under central regulations.

Debates over priority seating have been ongoing since 2016, and the ministry had proposed a draft amendment last year to address the issue.

The attempt, however, failed due to changes in legislators, resulting in proposals being left unpassed before the end of each legislative term and eventually abandoned, Chien said.

Chien said the ministry will work to seek consensus and reintroduce the amendment, but cannot guarantee an exact timetable for the drafting process.

(By Chen Chieh-ling, Chen Yu-ting and Lee Hsin-Yin)


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