SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, March 30, 2020 — The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced that it will shorten the operation hours of subways starting from April 1 to midnight from 1 a.m. as part of a stronger “social distancing” campaign as the COVID-19 crisis persists. This applies to all subway trains in Seoul from lines 1 through 9 and light trains of the Ui-Sinseol LRT.
In an effort to address concerns over possible confusion and inconveniences caused by the shortened operation hours of subways, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has been closely working with the Seoul Metro and Korail to discuss its feasibility by thoroughly conducting data analysis.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government expects that the shortened subway service will encourage citizens to return home early while giving more working hours for subway workers to carry out safety checks and quarantine work.
According to the Seoul Metro’s analysis of the subway usage and patterns of passengers based on data of transportation cards including pre-paid and post-paid cards, one-way tickets, and monthly season tickets, the number of passengers for seven days after February 23, 2020, when the central government raised the COVID-19 alert to the highest level, decreased by 40.5 percent from the previous year.
The average number of passengers per subway train on lines 1 through 8 at late night after midnight is 6.4. Except for passengers of subways on line 5, the number of passengers of all subway trains on lines 1 through 8 stands at less than ten.
The big data analysis of subway users from March 16 to 20, when the “social distancing” campaign had been launched to prevent the mass infection of coronavirus, reveals that the top ten subway stations used the most at late nights are the ones located near universities or nightlife areas, such as Gangnam Station, Hongik Univ. Station, Konkuk Univ. Station, Sadang Station, and Hapjeong Station.
In order to determine who inevitably use the subway at late night hours and who use it to go for nightlife activities, the repeat usage rate of the top 10 subway stations was analyzed, which revealed that inevitable use of subway with more than twice a week was 11.3 percent after 11 p.m. and 7.4 percent after midnight. The use of subway with just one time a week, which means the use of subways to go for nightlife activities, was 88.7 percent after 11 p.m. and 92.6 percent after midnight. Therefore, the Seoul Metropolitan Government concludes that there will be not many social concerns about possible inconveniences caused by the shorten operation hours of subway trains to low-income people, or those who use the subway inevitably.
Rather, late-night operations without passengers have been pointed out as a “social waste,” and recently have brought about a problem of lack of time to be spent on safety inspections and quarantine work, which has increased up to 14 times in recent months.
In addition, given the fact that entertainment and nightlife facilities can become the epicenter of the mass infection of coronavirus, it is time to strengthen the “social distancing” and “return home early” campaigns by taking advantage of public transportation and social infrastructure