James Fallows is a writer living and working in Beijing. He shares his experience of living and working in Beijing in the age of a 2-line Beijing Subway and the current 5-line Beijing Subway.
When I visited Beijing for about a week, I stayed out on a university campus near the Third Ring Road. It was hard to get around town from that part of the city. It was confusing which bus I had to take to get into the middle of town. The number of bus lines was dizzying and traffic was really horrendous. One bus I was on was cut off by a taxi and all of us standing went flying forward. I suspect this is a common experience on a Beijing bus.
I have also ridden the Beijing Subway during its 2-line days and pre-magnetic pass days. The paper ticket is probably a collector’s item now and all the old stations had a classic Soviet feel to it. Each station looked about the same with tall concrete columns – very utilitarian. However, for 2 RMB, you can go anywhere in the system.
I think there are stories of university kids paying 2 RMB just to travel the rails as long as they could. You could stay in the system for 2 RMB if you wanted. That’s quite a deal. Now that there are 5 full subway lines to take, you could literally travel even more kilometres just on 2 RMB. Literally, pennies per kilometre of travel. That’s an even a better deal now.