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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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.

Beijing Subway Plans Fair Hike

Beijing transport officials have finally realized that however many new lines and extensions are built, they are far from accommodating the daily travels of everyone in Beijing. Everyday during rush hour, all subway stations, transfer stops and lines that run to the outer-third ring are crammed, like a scene from a particularly scary zombie apocalypse. Beijing authorities have been trying their best, so they claim, to alleviate the problem. The newest measure being proposed is an increase in subway fares.

In March this year, the amount of passengers on Beijing subways  each day exceeded 10 million for the first time. According to CCTV, rush hour passengers constitute as much as 40 percent of total passengers. 

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Walking by a Deadly Escalator Accident

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.

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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I like myself more than when I last came to China.  I am more confident. I walked around for a few hours near 苏州街 listening to the This American Episode on global warning. The Beijing smog has not been so bad.  I have seen the sun every day of this week.   Saturday was International Women’s Day.  Go women.  I attended a brunch for the occasion and thought it was a sarcastic joke of an invitation (not in a mean way) only to find it was a serious brunch of about 15 young women (mostly foreign) ready to talk about being a woman, relationships, what they wish their mothers had and had not told them.  It was sterile and awkward at the beginning but got much better as people began to open up.  It was funny to be in room of girls/women sizing each other up.  Friday I want to a raclette at some very young french guys’ house and their quiet and shy Beijing girlfriends.  I left early.


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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