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Riding the Subway in Beijing

by Rebecca T., Le Moyne College, TBC Summer 2018

Before coming to China I did a lot of research. One of the main takeaways from my research about Beijing was that the subway is always horribly crowded. My experience differs from this quite a bit. While the subway can be extremely crowded, there are also times when it’s possible to sit down on the subway. Usually, it is somewhere in between. What line you are taking, in which direction and at what time all influence how busy your train is going to be.

Overall, I am a huge fan of the Beijing subway system. Compared to the New York City subway system, it is a lot easier to navigate even though I don’t know Chinese at all. There are signs everywhere indicating where you need to go to travel in which direction and to get to a certain line. Then, on the platform it tells you what the next station will be. And if that’s not enough, once you are on the train, there’s a sign telling you all the stops the train still has to make and which one it is at. All the signs on the subway are in both English and Chinese with the stops in pinyin. And even if you are still confused about what stop will be next, you will be able to hear the announcement in both Chinese and English well enough in advance to determine if this is indeed the stop you need to get off at. Additionally, for anyone living with a disability, the train station staff can escort you to the train and accompany you until you leave your destination station.

Aside from navigability there are many other great features of the Beijing subway system. One of these is that the subway stations are always clean. I have never seen trash on the floor or rats running around. Additionally, there is a distinct lack of vomit and spilled beer in the train cars. Even if there was some sort of trash or spill, it would be cleaned up in no time because there are so many workers that if something happens, they can find out and fix it before it becomes a problem.

In addition to these astounding perks, the subway is incredibly safe. When you enter the subway, both you and your bag go through a scanner. This ensures that people are unable to bring weapons on to the subway. In addition to this, it would be almost impossible for someone to die on the tracks since there are rails that prevent people from going anywhere near the line until the train arrives.

Another thing that’s nice about the subway system is that you swipe your subway card at both your beginning station and your ending station. This means two things. One, if you are only going a short distance you will be charged less than someone going all the way across the city. Two, if you end up getting lost or taking the long way around, you will pay the same as if you had taken the shortest way there.

To make public transportation more accessible to residents, Beijing is forever investing to upgrade and expand its underground train system. As of 2018, the Beijing subway system has 22 running lines that cover a total distance of 608 kilometers. With 17 additional lines currently in construction, it is estimated that Beijing will have a intricate underground web comprising of 30 active lines totaling 1178 kilometers! Beijing is also looking to modernize its subway payment system by incorporating face and fingerprint recognition technology, making it the largest, safest and the most modern public transportation system in the world.