Com­mut­ing in China’s cap­i­tal

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Lisa Linssen

Back in my home­town, I had to com­mute nine kilo­me­ters to work. It’s noth­ing com­pared to the av­er­age com­mut­ing dis­tance of 18.9 kilo­me­ters in Bei­jing, but by Ger­man stan­dards, it was al­ready quite a bit.

The fourth largest city in Ger­many has a sub­way sys­tem, but sadly it is not very re­li­able. Dur­ing rush hour, the trams are very crowded be­cause the trains are sel­dom on time. They have a low fre­quency and run just once ev­ery 10 or even 20 min­utes. So, de­spite my long way to work, I never took the sub­way. I would al­ways ride my bike no mat­ter what, through wind, rain or snow.

In Bei­jing, I was for­tu­nate to live across from the of­fice build­ing I worked in. But a few weeks ago, I moved houses, which ex­panded my com­mute from a few steps to four sub­way stops. Every­body warned me not to take Line 10 dur­ing rush hour and pitied me. But to my sur­prise, I find tak­ing the sub­way in my home­town much worse than here.

Yes, dur­ing rush hour, many peo­ple are on the train. It is the world’s busiest sys­tem by an­nual rid­er­ship, so it is re­ally crowded. But whereas in my home­town the trains are crowded be­cause the sys­tem is in­ef­fi­cient, un­punc­tual and not well main­tained, here in Bei­jing it sim­ply trans­ports a vast num­ber of peo­ple. You just have to ad­mire the ef­fi­ciency of the sys­tem.

The num­ber of com­muters fas­ci­nates me. The sub­way made around 3.5 bil­lion trips in 2016, av­er­ag­ing about 10 mil­lion trips per day.

I truly ad­mire the ef­fi­ciency of the sys­tem. It is a fast ex­pand­ing sys­tem too. In my Ger­man home­town, they started build­ing a line when I was in the sev­enth grade. Now, af­ter both my bach­e­lor’s and mas­ter’s de­grees and sev­eral years of work, it is still not com­pleted. Mean­while, Bei­jing man­aged to open more than 15 new lines across the en­tire city.

De­spite th­ese ef­forts, the sys­tem can­not meet the city’s mass tran­sit needs. But I be­lieve with the rapid ex­pan­sion of the sys­tem, one day it will be able to meet the de­mand.

The first time I came to Bei­jing in 2009, I thought that this must be the world’s best sub­way sys­tem. Cer­tainly, al­most 10 years later it re­ally can be called that. Ev­ery day I stand among the many other com­muters and think to my­self what a pleasure it is to ex­pe­ri­ence a truly great sub­way sys­tem.

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