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Trams possible on Jeju
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승인 2010.07.31  19:50:07
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▲ Trams may be a future mass transport option for Jeju Island. Photo courtesy Alstom

Could Jeju’s first rail transport be in the form of a tram? It is highly likely, according to the conclusion of a special workshop on the island’s future mass transit held on June 16 and sponsored by the gubernatorial transition council.

Lim Sam Jin, a Seoul National University professor who specializes in civil engineering, suggested in the workshop that trams would be the best green alternative as the future mass transit vehicles of the island. “Public transportation today should satisfy various requirements: contribution to the local economy, preservation of the natural environment, easy access for the handicapped and low construction costs,” Lim said. “A tram is the best solution that meets the requirements of both low cost and easy access.”

According to Lim’s estimate, it costs about 20 billion won per kilometer to lay tram tracks, whereas subway and light-rail tracks cost about 130 billion won and 50 billion won per kilometer respectively.

“Many European cities succeeded in revitalizing the old town by laying tram tracks,” Lim said. “To achieve this goal, public transit planners should put into their design such elements as easy access to transit while at the same time making the stay around the tram stops a fun experience for passengers.”

“Having trams in Jeju would signal a transition from road to rail, from automobiles to pedestrians and bicyclists,” Lim predicted, “but it would also move the center of urban development from the new town to the old town.”

Some potential routes for trams were suggested, one connecting the airport and the old town and the other connecting the airport and the new town. An official Jeju task force on climate change had earlier proposed a 10-km tram track connecting the old and new towns.

But will tourists coming to Jeju tolerate the ugly power lines that supply the juice to a tram. Lim is optimistic that trams running in Jeju can eliminate power lines crisscrossing the streets by employing battery-powered motors instead. This way, Lim said, the new public transit system could be appealing to visitors aesthetically as well, enhancing the overall attraction of Jeju as the top tourist destination in Korea. Furthermore, Jeju can also enjoy financial support for up to 80 percent of the total project cost from Seoul according to a Korean law on urban rail systems.

During the term of Governor Kim Tae Hwan, which ended June 30, the discussion around the green mass transit for the island was centered on light rail. A light rail track connecting Jeju City and Mount Halla has been seriously considered for several years on the island.

Other than permanently changing the island’s status as the only rail-free province in Korea, a tram in Jeju may work as a tourist attraction in its own right, as demonstrated by many aging European towns.

Switzerland, for example, was able to revitalize old towns by limiting public access to the city center to trams, buses, bikes and pedestrians.

A completely green public transit system in Jeju employing trams could be realized if pedestrians or bike riders go to their nearest tram stop and ride the trolley carrying their luggage or bikes. After arriving at their desired stop, they can either walk or ride their bikes to their final destinations. The tram cars they just left would be as gleaming as other attractions on Mount Halla and elsewhere.

The tram in this case would be three things wrapped in a single package: green public transit, a rehabilitation project of the old town and a tourist attraction.

Bolstered by Governor Woo Keun Min’s enthusiasm for a tram system, coupled with positive public reaction to the project so far, the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province announced on July 19 that residents will be able to enjoy tram transport by 2015.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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