Commuting in China’s capital
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.