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Volume 25 No. 133
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Games’ Remote Locale Creates Issues With Car Service

A bit more than a week ago, I wrote a glowing review of the Olympics’ specialized bus system here in Pyeongchang — reliable and always on time.

That’s still basically true, but a reporter’s life doesn’t necessarily revolve around the official side of the Games. Sometimes I need to get to a part of town that’s not on the bus route, like a restaurant or office, and that’s when the Pyeongchang experience breaks down in a hurry.

A man tries to determine where the shuttle bus is going at Pyeongchang Olympic Plaza.
Photo: Ben Fischer

Last Saturday night, I was returning from Seoul on the KTX high-speed train. I arrived at Pyeongchang station at 1:04 a.m. (precisely when promised) and found myself with eight other people, all needing cabs. There were none. There were only even a couple of local workers at the train station to help call cabs. Twenty minutes passed in the bitter cold.

I understand it’s the countryside, but A), 1 a.m. is not late at the Olympics, and B), we’re at the train station named for the host city!

After about 20 more minutes, I successfully hailed a cab on a Korean version of Uber called Kakao T. Not knowing when the next cab would come, I invited two Americans and two rather drunk Dutchmen to pile into the cab, clown-car style. We made it home, very illegally.

But most of my colleagues have not had any luck with these taxi-hailing apps. It’s not that they don’t work, it’s that there’s not enough cabs.

Non-credentialed fans have this same problem. There have been reports of fans skipping late-night sporting events they have tickets to because they can’t be sure about the transport system. Like the media buses, they can count on getting back to central depots — park-n-rides, train stations, etc. — via dedicated shuttles, but are often in the dark about that last-mile service to hotels.

It’s funny to compare Pyeongchang to Rio 2016. Pyeongchang has done so much right, and Rio did so much wrong. But the presence of a major city just helped so much. Say what you will about Rio 2016, I never waited more than five minutes for a car while there.

In a press conference today, a Pyeongchang 2018 representative said general spectators can call a hotline, 1330, created to give assistance in multiple languages. But as I experienced at the train station, they are helpful but can’t magically create taxi supply.