Recently, the Beijing municipal government announced that its subway system would charge higher prices during peak hours. This policy will mark the end of a ¥2 (yuan) per day flat rate. 60% of Internet users were against this policy, saying that increasing the subway price would not solve the overcrowding problem during peak hours; instead, it would increase the transportation expenses of the working class. Mao Peiqi, professor from the Renmin University history department told a reporter that charging higher prices at peak hours would benefit the city’s development, and the ¥2 ticket price would have been changed sooner or later since it did not fit the market.
The population of Beijing City reached twenty-one million in 2012, and many residents choose to take the subway due to its convenience, low price, and reliability. Currently the Beijing subway system has a total length of 456 kilometers, 270 stops and thirty-seven transfer centers. The system has a traffic volume of ten million per day.
Some experts said that the increased subway prices would help improve safety by reducing the number of subway riders, thus reducing the number of accidents due to overcrowding. Sun Zhang, professor from the Tongji University said that the low subway price attracted discretionary riders who could have chosen other transportation modes, which eventually led to overcrowding in the subway.
Forty percent of Internet survey respondents supported the policy. They said that the government subsidized a huge amount of money to sustain the low subway price, so it was reasonable to raise the price. The residents also suggested that the government make the price increase transparent by hosting public hearings and providing more than one pricing scheme for the public to choose from.
According to Mao Peiqi, overcrowding in Beijing’s subway is caused by problems in urban planning. He said that the Beijing central business district has a concentration of activities, while most of the employees live in the outskirts of the city, which causes a tidal fluctuation of traffic volume. In the long term, spreading some business locations to the suburbs could channel commuter traffic out of the city center. In addition, building large-scale malls and entertainment places can also spread the traffic volume to other parts of the city, said Mao.
Do you think Beijing should change its subway’s pricing policy? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
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The original article, published in Chinese, can be found here.