Commuting in Beijing- the Good, the Bad, and the New

For the first month, every Tuesday and Thursday my commute to work consisted of walking out Beida’s southwest gate, down Zhongguancun St. for 25 minutes, until reaching Suzhoujie Station.  From there, I would take subway line 10, transferring once to line 13, and finally reaching Xizhimen (where I work) in another 15 minutes.  In Beijing, businesses’ hours are staggered to help moderate the chronic traffic jams experienced every morning and late afternoon due to millions of commuters.  The government therefore directed some companies to operate from 8 a.m.-5 pm., others 9a.m.-6 p.m., and still others from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.  Carbon Capital Management, the company at which I work, opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m.

I enjoyed walking amid the commuters at 8 in the morning as it allowed me to try the eclectic food available along the way.  On every block, there are a myriad of road-side shops, make-shift stands, and even wheel barrels and carts vending food.  My roommate, Peter Torpoziki, and I walked to the Suzhoujie subway stop each morning and along the way, tried all types of breakfast foods—Jian bing (an egg/crepe type food), baozi, Rou jia Mo (an English-muffin type bread roll with pork, lettuce, and sauce inside), and various seasoned breads, just to name a few.  These vendors are all still cooking and selling food to the masses even around 7 at night when I am walking back from work.

Due to the rapidly expanding public transportation system, my commute has since changed.

In conjunction with China’s National Day—the 60th anniversary of the PRC—on October 1st, 2009, a new subway line–line four–was opened up.  This new line conveniently added a stop right beside Peking University’s (Beida’s) campus, just outside the East Gate.  I no longer had to walk for 25 minutes to the station each morning, and instead could get right on the subway and, without transferring, get to work in 20 minutes.  There is a huge demand for public transportation in Beijing; the stress the enormous population puts on the current system is obvious.  Crowds of people relentlessly pour into the subway system and during certain points in the day, it proves overwhelming.  A pack of people 80 ft. deep waiting to ride up a small escalator is not an uncommon occurrence.  Despite the government’s best efforts to ease the congestion, often many people cannot manage to get on a train when it pulls into the station because it is packed so densely.  This is also commonplace with public buses, which are all doubled-in-length, trailing a substantial extension.


The government is building up the public transportation system as fast as possible; extra space is left on the subway maps for the addition of future lines as they go live.  Despite the complications of an abundant population, the newer lines are the most advanced and efficient subway systems I have every seen.  First off, a transparent wall lines the length of the platform, making falling (or jumping) in front of the train impossible.  It also lends for more organized and efficient transfers of passengers; the train stops in the same spot every time as it corresponds with the doors in the transparent wall, so people can line up in anticipation of the next train rather than having to guess where it will stop.  According to the demarcations in the marble ground, people line up on one side of the door while allowing passengers to depart on the other, a system that is reinforced by the dozens of personnel assisting those who are lost and facilitating the overall fluidity of the operation.  Another noticeable difference is that, once inside, you can walk the whole length of the train as each car is not separate unto itself like most subways in the states, but rather one continuous platform.

New Subway Line 4

New Subway Line 4

continuous train

There are also flat screen TVs mounted within the sides of the train cars on which news updates, clips of the Olympics, the 60th anniversary ceremony, and even shows continuously play such as “Hot Beijing Restaurants” or “World Traveler” which showcases the food/monuments/cultural characteristics of other nations.  There are even larger TVs sometimes mounted on the far side of the tracks to entertain the waiting travelers, and promotions can often be seen on the insides of the tunnels, using the same principle as a flip book to achieve a fluid animation while traveling at 40 mph from within the train.  With easily understandable, animated maps showing your position in real-time, English announcements for each stop, and high definition TVs, this subway system is quite extraordinary.

HD TVs in the SubwaySubway Terminal

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One Comment on “Commuting in Beijing- the Good, the Bad, and the New”

  1. *’: I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information .-~

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