Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tainan: But...but our land grab is different!

Art takes shape.

The Taipei Times editorialized today on the land expropriation for the rail line in Tainan....
The project, which was approved by the Executive Yuan in 2009, aimed to move an 8km long stretch of railroad track underground. To facilitate the project, the Greater Tainan Government plans to demolish more than 400 houses on the east side of the current tracks in downtown Tainan. When the project is completed, the original surface tracks are to be removed to make way for a park and a commercial district.

The land expropriation case in Greater Tainan has sparked protest from some households who accused Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) of reaping the benefits of land expropriation and disregarding people’s property rights. They urged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to pay as much attention to the case as it has to condemning Miaoli County Government Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) over his handling of the Dapu case.

Lai has insisted that the railroad project in Tainan is completely different from the Dapu case, because the expropriation of 62 hectares of land in Dapu was to benefit developers, with most of the seized land to be used to build residential and commercial complexes. The railroad project in Greater Tainan, on the other hand, is a major public construction project, with much of the land to be used for road construction to benefit the city, Lai said.
Lai's claim that Dapu is being expropriated for developers seems like a bit of misdirection. The rationale for the Dapu demolitions is that they are needed to round off a science park..... But your bullshit alarm should be going off. Read that again:
When the project is completed, the original surface tracks are to be removed to make way for a park and a commercial district.
A friend of mine present at a hearing on the issue said that Taiwan Railway officials testified that they did not have enough money to do a deeper line, and they couldn't pay higher prices for the land since they didn't have enough money for that either. So the land was expropriated and compensation was low. TRA officials also said that the underground line will help stimulate Tainan's economy, though it is hard to see how, unless they mean the commercial development which is going to take place above it. I'm trying to track down some artist's rendering of what the freed-up land is going to look like, but I've heard that includes shopping malls. We both know, dear reader, that the land is going to make some big businessman a ton of money on that "commercial district". None of which will reach the original land owners.
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Mike Fagan said...

Among the ostensible reasons given for the move of the line are reduction in traffic accidents because (a) the railway crossings to the south and north of the city can be removed, and (b) traffic can be reduced in the downtown area with more people using the train because there will now be several more stops inside Tainan city proper rather than just the main station and the one to the north in Yongkang district.

I don't have numbers, but I can't imagine there are many traffic accidents on the railway crossings (despite the insanity of Taiwan's roads) - in the five years I've lived in Tainan, I've never once even heard of that happening (though a few years ago I did see a truck get stuck due to insufficient clearance). As far as the second claim goes, the problem is that the line only runs on a north-south axis and therefore anyone not living in close proximity to it will have to drive to one of the stops to use it, and since the proposed new stops are not that far apart at all, why not just drive the entire 10/20 mins? A few weeks back I got hold of the city government's information booklet; these two claims were presented without any data to back them up whatsoever.

To the extent that the public transport justification rests on these two points, I can't see how it can be taken seriously, except by Lego-enthusiasts. The residents whose houses are to be demolished were originally told that, since the current line running past their houses was to be moved underground, their properties would not be affected. Later of course there was a "change of plans" when it was decided that several stops should be added to the line. Whether these people were lied to or not is a relevant question which will be ignored.

It's not uncommon here in Tainan for locals to tell you that Lai has "a good reputation". When asked in what does this consist however, all you get is blank stares or some risible crap about him "promoting tourism" (i.e. the Yoichi Hatta memorial park) or paying for bus tours to send the old folks to Taipei on a day out. In reality of course, there is no reason to expect anything better of Lai just because he's in the DPP.

Anonymous said...

It's all about money, when these people were contacted about the development of underground railroads then the switch, that's breach of some type of contract.

Commercial law, commercial liens will straighten out these crooked politicians.

Stop the damn marching and protesting in the hot Taiwanese sun.

Learn some commercial law and lodge a few in the wrong does right places, they'll straighten up real fast.

It's all commercial law!!

Mike Fagan said...

"...that's breach of some type of contract."

Would that be the "social contract" I wonder? Answer me this: let's say a commercial lawyer was to sue the Tainan city government for some type of contract breach and the judge ruled in his favour - what is there to stop the city government from simply laughing at him?

Mike Fagan said...

Seeing as how I seem to be the only one commenting these days, I might as well make another point...

One thing the newspapers overlook is that not all of the line is being moved underground - the section north of Yongkang station has been elevated by about seven or eight meters. So what? Well they might have made an enormous cock-up, though I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Moving the train line underground is going to be a huge boon for Tainan. Rail lines cut up the city pedestrian and commercial networks (and now--bicycles too), especially in our post-modern era where we *aren't* trying to build everything around the automobile.

In fact, this is the "etymology" behind the term "wrong side of the tracks". Railroads running through cities created isolation and segmentation where civic wealth can't easily flow in between, and this resulted in many well-known ghettos.

The prices for purchases may be in question, how much land is really necessary, and how it is eventually used should all be looked at closely, but the *overall* picture of a better connected, more pleasant Tainan can't seriously be in doubt.

Michael Turton said...

"of a better connected, more pleasant Tainan can't seriously be in doubt."

Certainly. But the process is one of theft and exploitation.

There is also the public policy issue. You have a pile of money. Out of all the things Taiwan urgently needs, do you think that building a tunnel under Tainan is the right move?


Mike Fagan said...

OK so moving the railway underground is going to be good because... something about postmodernism and the etymology of a cliche.

For pity's sake.

There are lots of things that might make Tainan more pleasant for some (but not for everyone); personally I would like to scrap the sodding railway line altogether and just build a giant roller coaster from one end of the city to the other. Other people might not like it, but tough luck: the picture of a higher profile, more exciting Tainan couldn't seriously be in doubt.

Though failing that I'd at least like to drive on roads that don't subside into six-foot deep holes if it rains too much. Or alternatively: sue the bastard whose company built them with waifer-thin asphalt on dodgy foundations for a cushy contract with the Tainan city government. Yes I'd much sooner have that than have the government stealing houses from poor people and dressing the theft up in some wank about "integration".

Anonymous said...

Big time meeting tomorrow here in Tainan.
Be here or be square.

"Old joke"

Make a scene at the protest or STFU.