A first hand experience of the new Beijing Metro

The Atlantic – December 10, 2008

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.


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