Major changes in Beijing’s traffic system?

Everything is becoming more expensive in China right now, analysts calculated an inflation rate of close to 6 percent, much more than China had in the past years. Especially prices for food have gone up steeply in the past month, the prices for pork and eggs have risen dramatically. I personally have felt the price acceleration of entrance fees at tourist attractions, some prices have doubled since my travel guide was published in 2005.

Recently the city of Beijing announced to reduce the fare for its subway to a 2 yuan (about 0,20 Euro) flat fee per trip, including limitless times of transfer. It is not as much a step to fight inflation, more is it an attempt to fight traffic congestion. Beijing’s traffic it well known for its common traffic jams and the city is doing various efforts to reduce the number of cars in the streets with the upcoming Olympics. Since the subway was opened in 1971, it is the first time that the tickets are undergoing a price cut. A reduction of subway prices from 3 yuan (or from 5 yuan for change to line 13 respectively) will hopefully bring more people from their cars into public transportation. Other measures that will come into effect during the games was the ban of ca. 50 percent of cars that was already tested in September.

Traffic at Wudaokou
The new ticketing system is supposed to reduce traffic congestion in Beijing.

The new fare system was chosen on a meeting with city officials and traffic experts. There was an alternate plan to introduce a fare depending to distance traveled. However, the majority was favoring the flat fee that is also cheaper for consumers since the alternate plan’s proposal was to have a starting price of 2 yuan and have a maximum fare of 4 yuan. One reason for this choice might be that since many tickets are sold individually as single trip tickets, the administrative need to sell and check different fare tickets is much bigger. Beijing’s subway tickets are not yet sold at vending machines and paper tickets are used so the distance would have needed to be checked when getting on and off the subway. There is also a electronic traffic card, but there are still lines in front of the ticket counter at some times.

The new system was decided on in late September and is going to come into effect as early as October 7. This is also the date of opening the new number 5 subway line that will run in north-south direction. I have already seen the new stations Yonghegong and Baixinqiao in early September, but at that time the line was only performing test runs. Other subway lines are going to follow, mainly to ensure better transportation during the Olympics.
It seems a little strange to me to introduce the new system just after the “golden week” of nationwide vacation after October 1, the national holiday. At this time many tourists from all over the country are coming to Beijing and would have enjoyed to use the new subway line.

Xizhemen subway station
Will the reduced fare make the subways even more crowded?

What impact might the new system have? It is hopefully reducing traffic and the lowered fare might be an incentive for more people to not use their private car and switch to public transportation. The subway line will also make it possible to cross the city from north to south faster than before.

However, there are still some remaining problems: At present, the subways in the city center are already at their limits during rush hour and new customers might increase the number of peak hour passengers. It is unclear whether the frequency of the heavily used, but relatively old line 1 and line 2 subways can be improved. Another problem is that at the moment many people are preferring the bus that is much cheaper; instead of a 3 yuan subway ticket it only costs as less as 0,4 yuan when using the Yikatong card. When reducing the price to 2 yuan the cost for a subway ride will reduce 31% percent on average, according to a calculation by city officials and traffic experts. I assume that more people are switching from bus to subway now as the price difference has been reduced so more people might be using the faster subway instead of the buses that often get stuck in traffic jams. On the other hand, many people who are using a private car in Beijing are rather rich people who can effort a car and are not going to be considerably willing to switch to the subway just because it reduced the price one yuan. For them the car is a status symbol and the subway’s biggest incentive towards them is that it is faster then overground traffic during rush hour, not the price.


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One Response to “Major changes in Beijing’s traffic system?”

  1. Major changes in Beijing's traffic system? — Flight Tickets Online Says:

    […] There was an alternate plan to introduce a fare depending to distance traveled…. source: Major changes in Beijing’s traffic system?, Beijing […]

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