TRA Express trains standing room only

Is it possible to actually get an assigned seat on a TRA express train with one of their machines? Also, the times I’ve been on the Hsinchu-Taipei Tze-chiang train have always been standing room only. The crowd thinned out as one got further south. From an economic perspective, wouldn’t TRA be wise to increase (or if not possible then reallocate) Tze-chiang frequencies for the northern regions to maximize profit?

It tends to be standing like that at peak times, weekends and holidays. I guess the TRA is pretty maxed out at those times.
People can always pay more and get the HSR.

Yes, you can, but you have to use one of the touch screen machines. They are located near the regular ticket windows in some of the larger stations. I Use them quite often when I travel somewhere and want to make sure I have a seat for the trip out again (you can check seat availability yourself and often avoid the lines at ticket windows). I don’t think they have English menus however.

Glad I didn’t go south.

Can you pay cash with the touchscreen machines?

Yes, you can pay cash.

Actually, depending on the route (Taipei - Hualian - Taidong is notorious) there is a very good chance you will NEVER get a seat on one of the good trains with one of the touchscreen machines, short of getting lucky and picking up tickets right after someone else has canceled.

For reasons that evade logic, TRA puts the tickets on sale online 3 days before they are available from the wickets or the machines in the stations. They go up at 6AM, something like 14 days in advance of the travel date. Consecutive holidays go up together, so your return ticket might actually be available the same day as your outbound ticket - which might make it 17 days in advance (tough luck if you didn’t figure that out and waited three days). Of course, when I say “available” I actually mean “sold out within 0.3 seconds” because you won’t have a cat in hell’s chance of beating the bots that tourist companies MUST be using to buy up all the tickets on the nice trains. You can sit there at 5:59 with all the open browser windows you want, but you won’t be able to beat them, and you’ll just have to settle for a seat on a crappy slow train.

And don’t make the mistake of using the Chinese language website unless you have a local ID number because it won’t let foreigners book tickets with their worthless, dirty ARC numbers. Hurrah! Go and use the English version and plug in a passport number instead.

What is the seat situation with regard to the slower Chu-Kuang expresses on weekends? Are they also standing room only?

To answer my own question, after taking the Chu-Kuang express twice in the last two weeks, yes they are standing room only from around Taipei all the way south. The train I was on was also notoriously late both times (17 and 20 min), especially for an express.