Interactive Map: Evolution of the Beijing Subway, 1971-2015 (and Beyond!)

A simple little timeline map from CNN charting the rapid growth of one of the world’s largest and busiest subway systems. The exponential expansion that has occurred since 2006 (pictured above) is both phenomenal and just a little frightening. Despite this, the network is struggling to keep up with the transportation needs of the region, and the newest expansion plans call for more than 1,000km of track by 2020 — more than double the current length of 465km.  

The Beijing Subway offers the possibility of paying with plastic bottles

The Beijing Subway owners have begun to offer its passengers the ability to pay their bills with plastic bottles, thus helping to preserve the environment and helping the pocket of every traveler.

There are four machines that collect the bottles, are installed in the underground Shaoyaoju Jinsong and are on line 10.

On average, for every bottle recycle the passenger will receive between 0.5 and $ 0.15, and if we take accounts with around 15 bottles will have enough money to travel between 8 subway lines and 105 stations.

The recycled bottles are automatically collected and then sent to a processing plant plastics, for now this service is in testing phase, but it is expected that in the future can be implemented in each and every one of the Beijing subway stops, also plans to implement this service in the train stops.



Submission - Unofficial Maps: Redesigned Metro Maps of the World

Submitted by Jug Cerovic, who says:

I completed a set of new schematic metro maps of 12 cities using a common standard. I have tried to make easy to read, memorize and use maps but at the same time pleasant looking. Crowded centers are enlarged and specific features such as ring lines highlighted.

You can see all the maps here.


Transit Maps says:

You all know that I love an ambitious transit mapping project, and this is up there with the most ambitious I’ve seen. Jug has taken twelve of the most iconic metro maps out there — New York, Mexico City, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo — and redesigned them all using a standardised design style, font (looks like DIN) and square format.

Despite the common language, the maps still manage to look unique to their city: no easy feat! Jug has managed to impart a very stylish feel to the maps by the use of large, sweeping curves instead of tight angles. There’s some nice information hierarchy too, with Metro/Subway/U-Bahn lines getting full, bright colours while commuter rail/S-Bahn lines are rendered in muted pastel colours.

I would say that some of the maps are more successful than others (Moscow falls a bit flat for me, while New York is incredibly dense and crowded), but this is still an outstanding example of strong unifying design principles applied well across a wide variety of different transit maps.

You should definitely head over to the project website to view and compare all twelve maps; there’s also prints for sale!

Five Facts You Never Knew About the Beijing Subway

The Beijing subway system, while not the longest in the world, moves the most people every day. If the entire population of Sweden rode the Beijing subway in a single day, the traffic would still be lighter than on an average weekday. Everyone in Ireland could ride twice and not break the record day for passengers – over 11 million people on April 30, 2014. But despite its world-famous reputation for crowds and construction, the Beijing Subway still has its secrets. Starting with…

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I Spent an Entire Day on the Beijing Subway

If Beijing’s subway feeds the city’s beating heart, then Line 2 is its circulatory system. Its looped route traces the path once taken by the ancient city walls, but Mao’s disdain for history saw the structure make way for subterranean tunnels and the heaving ring road directly above. A staggering 1.5 million people use the line every day, each one a tiny blood cell that helps keep the great capital alive.

My self-imposed mission is to spend an entire day on Line 2, circling central Beijing from first train to last. Part social observation and part endurance test, there is no better way to sample the cross sections of a city than to watch them change around you from the discomfort of a single subway seat. This is a people-watcher’s paradise.

Andingmen Station at dawn.

4:51 AM – There’s a palpable smog in the air as I descend into the depths of the subway. A kind voice on the PA reminds me to “stand firm and hold the handrail,” which is helpful. It’s reassuring to know that the state cares about my well-being. 

5:05 AM – The doors to the first train open. “Welcome to Subway Line Teeooo” declares the automated announcer in a Chinese/American/robot accent that, over the course of the next 24 hours, will come to be my disembodied nemesis.

I take my seat in a clinically-lit car pasted with ads. Video screens above each bank of seats promote insect killer, a dating website, and some kind of cooking oil. Even the windows exist to remind people of their need to consume. As we speed between stations, lines of LCD displays inside the tunnel play yet more ads through the glass.


How much will your subway ride in Beijing cost?

As the capital, Beijing has always had plenty of bad sides: nearly unbreathable air, skyrocketing housing prices, traffic congestion – but there is one advantage that no other metropolises have: cheap public transportation. A ticket priced at just 2 RMB ($0.3) can get you anywhere via subway, and bus fares can be as cheap as 0.4 RMB (6.5 cents). No wonder the Beijing subway has been a financial black hole. But the good days of riding the subway all you want for a flat fare are almost over, and the subway fare system will become more expensive starting from December 28th.

The city has been discussing the price hike for some time, which has been met with both positive and negative feedback from commuters. The final price chart could significantly affect fares for commuters:

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Hades, Maybe

I was leaning against Mona’s bed last Wednesday night when I asked her, “Is writing about the metro a terribly cliché thing to do?”

“Yes, it is,” she had replied.  “And I hate the word metro.”

But the thought kept cropping up.  Which is why I felt the need to open with a discreet disclaimer, and then to proceed. 

I write about the Beijing metro all the fucking time in that breathy John Berger tone of mine, and frankly I am sick of listening to myself.  I doubt I’ll ever hear from myself what it is I want to hear about the metro, though I remain hopeful that every time I tackle the topic some more sense will surface. 

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Random photo dump:

Top left: This is my all-time favorite thing I have ever seen on the subway. In case you can’t tell, that is a 72 ounce bag of chocolate chips. I’m pretty sure he’s planning to make cookies for the entire city.

Top middle: We found out where all the Chinese women buy the cute masks that match their outfits! Beijingers wear masks with all sorts of intricate patterns and designs. Some of the filters are pretty complex as well. I suppose it’s worth the investment to buy a fancier one if you live here full time.

Top right: The PBR display in all of the stores is super American. The cans here are not the standard red, white, and blue but, instead, camouflage or a more vibrant and complete excessive red, white, and blue design. Anything China can market as American will go over the top to do so, cheap beer included!

Middle: This is a picture of one of China’s Rent-a-Bike racks. I have seen these in places in Raleigh and New York City. I thought it was really cool that you could use your transportation card (for buses and the subway) to rent a bike. I have never seen someone riding one, but there are always bikes missing when we walk by a rack so I am assuming they are being put to good use.

Bottom left: One of our first days here, an administrator took us the ever-so-Chinese restaurant called “McDonald’s”. I am assuming she brought us there because we just needed to stop for a quick bite, but we were all expecting Chinese food. I took a picture of my to-go meal because they put your drink in a to-go bag here. It’s odd, but it’s handy if your cup is hot (like mine was). Also, if you ever go to China, it’s worth going to McDonald’s to try the tofu and green tea cake. It sounds weird, but it’s delicious.

Bottom right: I have, for about 3 years, known about Kinder eggs. I follow a lot of bloggers from the UK and they are obsessed with them. We do not sell them in the US because they have a toy inside and, supposedly, are kids are too stupid not to eat the toy. But, when you open it, it’s two separately sealed pieces—the chocolate part and the part with a toy—which you have to open individually. It’s really obvious that there is one side for eating and another for playing. Anyway, it’s probably some of the best chocolate I have ever had and I blame the US government for ruining the happiness of everyone who has ever tried one in a foreign country and cannot buy them when they get home.

No, it’s not a variation of the escalator temporarily stairs joke.

Getting out of the Line 4 subway Tuesday morning, I noticed one of the exits had been sealed off (the one I would have taken), and outside there were a good number of police cars, lights still flashing. I was on my way to meet some friends for lunch near the Beijing Zoo, and I considered snapping a shot of the sealed off exit from outside. There was already one guy with a pro camera taking pictures. While I was curious what happened, I didn’t really think much of it. 

Then this morning, while reading a random news article, I was led to this story in the “more stories” section. It turns out, just ninety minutes earlier that Tuesday, the Line 4 Beijing Zoo Exit A escalator went haywire, reversed direction, and well…you can read and look at the rest.


It has been only three days since the Beijing subway increased the subway fare.

Despite the increase, it remains one of the cheapest subways in China. Previously it only cost 2 RMB per a ride, regardless of the distance. With new regulation, the ride starts at 3 RMB and depends on the length of your journey. It was the first price rise for the subway since 2007, and it seems like the Beijingers are not very happy about it.

In just these three days there has been a notable decrease in passengers using the Beijing subway…

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