Solar Bus will cancel its senior citizen discount on four northbound bus routes starting Oct.1. Under the Transportation Management Regulations, however, operators cannot unilaterally cancel senior discounts and other legally granted discounts. If operators want to do this, they have to submit an application to the government and the application has to be approved. The Directorate General of Highways says it will do what it can to negotiate with the company.
Solar Bus has announced it will cancel its 50 percent senior discount on four northbound bus routes running from Yunlin's Douliu, Xiluo, Sihu and Chiayi's Minxiong to Taipei, Sanchong and Linkou.
Of the close to 500,000 rides a year, 25 to 30 percent are half-price customers. (The Directorate General of Highways') cross-subsidy regulations allow autonomous hikes by operators. So-called full-price fares no longer reflect the actual ratio of senior ridership.
This means seniors traveling from Yunlin and Chiayi to Taipei will have to pay twice what they are paying now.
If they are losing money over the long term, we won't have buses to take either. Us consumers are just like, why is it like this now when other (operators) could shoulder the load before?
The company says ridership has been affected by the high-speed rail. In addition, seniors account for 30 percent of its passengers and it can no longer withstand the NT$30 million in annual losses from the discount. Yunlin County Magistrate Chang Li-shan has asked the Directorate General of Highways for assistance.
I hope the Directorate General of Highways can provide these discounts or special subsidies to help long-haul bus operators including Solar Bus, and remote townships and counties.
Starting October, seniors traveling from Yunlin and Chiayi to Taipei will have to pay a one-way fare of NT$360 to NT$400 instead of the NT$180 to NT$200 they are paying now. Solar Bus says it has not received a single government subsidy in 23 years and it has the right to cancel the discount fare under "The Act of Encouraging Public Transportation." The Chiayi District Motor Vehicles Office says it has already helped to increase ridership and bus companies should help shoulder the burden of social responsibility.