First Impressions: Using the Beijing Subway to Navigate Through the City
September 13, 2012
Anyone who has dared venture outside their apartment door is immediately greeted by the diverse sights and smells that a cultural hub like Beijing has to offer. One particularly poignant sight is the 8am rush on the Beijing subway. On the streets above, pedestrians constantly bump into each other, cars are gridlocked, and motorcycles whistle through the traffic at high speeds. The solution to the road issue is located 20 metres below, a vast network of trains, with commuters swarming onto the narrow carriages. However, the commotion up top is almost certainly paralleled by the pandemonium below. Yet whilst the road users have a disregard for naive pedestrians, the well-regimented underground system filters everyone through a security system and down to the subway below within 3 minutes. As long as you have your trusty Beijing subway card in hand, you can expect a pleasant trip…to the carriage at least.
If you’re lucky enough to chance upon the correct exit, the all too familiar haze of the Beijing environment greets you as you emerge from the rabbit warren below. Pollution aside, the journey, whilst not entirely comfortable, has been timely and efficient. Provided you are able to drag your laptop bag from under the feet of other commuters on the Beijing subway, you may even find yourself 15 minutes early for work.
To anyone who has ventured to the London Underground, or any other form of public transportation in the United Kingdom, you may have become accustomed to the sporadic timing of the different modes of transport. A disgruntled Brit in the UK becomes an uncomfortable Brit in China. As the Chinese proverb goes Chángjiāng hòulàng tuī qiánlàng (长江后浪推前浪) – meaning the next generation exceeds the last one. The Beijing subway is a metaphor for the economy: competitive, busy, efficient, and perhaps, most importantly, always improving.