The quiet mid­night ride on the sub­way

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO -

It’s nearly mid­night on the sub­way, and there are plenty of seats to grab. The train buzzes along, and it’s al­most too quiet dur­ing the No 10 train’s fi­nal loop of the night.

Say what you will about the air qual­ity in Bei­jing, but the city’s sub­way is a work of art, at least when com­pared with sys­tems in other world ci­ties. It is smooth. It is quiet. It is clean. And oh so con­ve­nient. In New York, the sub­way sys­tem, while con­ve­nient, is noisy, bumpy and has a dis­tinct aroma that can’t ad­e­quately be de­scribed in sim­ple, po­lite terms.

As a child grow­ing up in New York dur­ing the early 1960s, I can re­call rid­ing on sub­way cars that had to be made be­fore World War II.

This Day, That Year

Item­fromJuly17,1987,in Chi­naDaily:Bei­jing­is­fac­ing ase­ri­ouswa­ter­short­age­and need­sanad­di­tion­al1­bil­lion cu­bicme­ter­sofwa­terevery year.By1990,the­cap­i­tal­will lack­270mil­lion­cu­mof wa­ter­for­do­mes­ti­cuse­and 670mil­lion­cum­forindus­tri­aluse.

Thanks to var­i­ous diver­sion and con­ser­va­tion pro­grams, Bei­jing’s wa­ter re­sources have risen from 100 cu m per capita in 2010 to 150 cu m last year.

The South-North Wa­ter Diver­sion Project, one of the The seats were made of wo­ven wicker, as were the ceil­ing fans. And the train still had leather straps for rid­ers to grasp as the train drove through tun­nels made in the 1800s. The term “strap hang­ers” was coined dur­ing the early 20th cen­tury to char­ac­ter­ize peo­ple stand­ing dur­ing these rides.

In Chicago, the trains are mostly above ground and the sys­tem is known as the El — for el­e­vated. The cars are packed with seats and a nar­row aisle, rel­e­gat­ing others to stand in the front and rear of cars. A Chi­nese com­pany, CRRC, has been con­tracted to re­place the cars in the Chicago sys­tem and is build­ing a fac­tory there to ful­fill its or­der. Bos­ton (also get­ting CRRC cars), Philadelphia, Washington and Los An­ge­les also have sys­tems, but none quite as mod­ern as Bei­jing’s.

And per­haps that is the dif­fer­ence. Some lines were com­pleted just last year, and world’s big­gest, in­volves draw­ing wa­ter from south­ern rivers and sup­ply­ing it to the north. Wa­ter sourced from the project is pumped to 11 mil­lion peo­ple in the cap­i­tal, ac­count­ing for 73 per­cent of the city’s daily sup­ply.

Bei­jing is sup­plied through the Cen­tral Route, which chan­nels wa­ter nearly 1,300 kilo­me­ters from Dan­jiangkou Reser­voir in Hubei prov­ince.

In ad­di­tion, Bei­jing has also been build­ing a mod­ern sys­tem for ef­fi­cient ab­sorp­tion of rainwater to ease short­ages. ex­pan­sion work on others con­tin­ues to­day. I was fas­ci­nated the first time rid­ing on a Bei­jing sub­way when I saw the video ad­ver­tise­ment out a win­dow. Not in New York. I re­call how I wasn’t bumped and bruised as one can get dur­ing turns and along un­even tracks of the F Train as it heads un­der the East River to Man­hat­tan from Brook­lyn.

And at mid­night on that

The cap­i­tal has been ren­o­vat­ing streets with per­me­able ma­te­ri­als, con­struct­ing stor­age ponds, fil­tra­tion pools and bioswale — a gully filled with drought-re­sis­tant plants — through­out parks and com­mu­ni­ties.

Bei­jing has re­leased a reg­u­la­tion re­quir­ing wa­ter-con­sum­ing in­dus­tries to meet Bei­jing sub­way train, I was sur­prised at the low num­ber of peo­ple aboard.

If one stood at just the right spot at the front of the train with a bowling ball and rolled it down the aisle on a straight track, you could al­most imag­ine it trav­el­ing all the way to the last car with­out hit­ting a per­son.

Dur­ing an av­er­age day, the Bei­jing sys­tem car­ries nearly 10 mil­lion pas­sen­gers along al­most 600 kilo­me­ters of track. It’s al­ready one of the world’s busiest sys­tems, yet, un­like many others, at close to mid­night the last round of trains are nearly done and the sys­tem pre­pares to shut down for a few hours, pre­par­ing for the next morn­ing rush hour.

That’s why mid­night on the metro is un­like any other sub­way ride you’ ll have.

Con­tact the writer at kei­thkohn@ chi­nadaily.com.cn us­age quo­tas. Restau­rants, hos­pi­tals, State en­ter­prises, of­fice build­ings, car­washes and ho­tels and cater­ing in­dus­tries come un­der this regime.

Last year, the city con­sumed 3.9 bil­lion cu m of wa­ter. This year, au­thor­i­ties have pledged to re­strict con­sump­tion to less than 4 bil­lion cu m.

CAR­LOS OSO­RIO/ ASSOCIATED PRESS

Chil­dren par­tic­i­pate in a race dur­ing the an­nual Mud Day fes­ti­val at Nankin Mills Park in Michi­gan, United States, last week.

CHINA DAILY KEITH KOHN /

The Line 10 in Bei­jing shot on a night in May.

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