Da jia hao! Hello Everyone! It has been a very busy few weeks here in Beijing. School is in full swing for me, and I’m learning and practicing more Chinese than I ever thought possible in this short a time! It’s exciting to use the new words I learn when I’m talking to Mama and Baba. Now Mama talks to me like I should understand everything she says. Funny thing, I do understand most of what she says now, though I still can’t respond to everything.
This week I’m going to tell you all about the transportation system here in Beijing. I’ve been wanting to tell you about it since the beginning because it’s so crazy and busy. It seems they’re building new subway lines everywhere all the time, and there are more taxis on the roads than private cars.
By far the transportation method that moves the most people is the subway. I’ve put some pictures up of how busy the subways are. The Friday two weeks ago 10.87 million people rode the subways. Beijing’s subways officially passed Russia’s as the busiest in the world. Put in perspective, that’s like the entire population, men, women, and children, of Greece or Sweden riding the Beijing subways in the same day. That’s a lot of people! Considering how many people that is, the subways are surprisingly efficient.
I usually only have to wait for two or three minutes for a new train to come if I get to the subway platform right as another leaves, and I don’t really have to wait for a second train because another is too full. I think that’s because they come so often, though it’s impressive they come as often as they do, and they’re as full as they are.
In the morning on the way to school, if I leave my house at 6:30 am, the subways aren’t busy at all. Well, I mean I still don’t get a seat, but I’m not cramped. If I leave my house at 7 am though, the subways are so full I can’t lift my arms up because they get pinned at my sides (or put them down if they start up). That’s not really a problem for me because that only lasts a few stops and then the crowds thin out pretty quick. It seems most people live within a few stops of wherever their school or work is. We don’t ride the subways with Rachael though when they’re that busy because we need to protect her pregnant belly, and the crowds don’t really pay attention to things like that, so we just avoid them during peak times if she’s travelling too. Then we take taxis.
The taxis here are subsidized by the government, so someone riding in a taxi pays part of the cost and the Chinese government pays part of the cost too. That makes riding in a taxi really cheap. We figured out that it’s actually less expensive to ride in a taxi in Beijing than it is to drive our own car in the United States! Can you believe that? I can’t. Taxis in NYC are really expensive, and way more than subways. Taxis here though, while costing more than the subways, are pretty affordable. We’d take the taxis all the time I suppose, except often it’s actually faster to take the subways because traffic on the streets gets so bad!
We also walk a lot here. We’ll often take the subway to within a few kilometers (usually one or less) of where we want to go, then just walk the rest of the way. We live about a ten minute walk from a subway station, and that’s really common. A lot of times businesses and people try to be close to a subway line.
There’s also little taxis that aren’t subsidized or sponsored by the government. They’re actually just motorcycles with a bench seat enclosed in the back. They are often quicker than the taxis because they just weave right through traffic! It’s kind of scary the first time you take one, but the drivers are really experienced actually, and they honk a lot to let people know where they are.
Students and blue collar workers are the most common riders on the subway, and just starting out professionals are most common in the taxis. Once somebody has enough money they buy a car. It’s quite the status symbol here, and there are a lot of really nice cars. It’s funny though that as we zoom by on our way home from school a lot of those nice cars are stuck in traffic on the roads. It’s a trade-off I guess; your own car to control how you want, or being faster and less expensive. We like the faster and less expensive J
That’s all for this week everybody! Zai Jian!