By Si Thu Tun
One of the first things that surprised me following my arrival in China was Beijing’s massive subway system. I was both shocked and impressed to learn that 10 million passengers ride Beijing’s subway system each day. I also learned that the Beijing metro is the world’s busiest and second longest — only Shanghai’s metro is longer.
Upon exiting Beijing Capital International Airport, I found the process of obtaining a Beijing smart card for public transportation to be very straightforward. I only needed to show my passport to acquire the card, which is very similar to the prepaid mobile SIM cards we have in Myanmar — the card needs to be topped up periodically. At the entrance of the subway, there are automated machines and you need to swipe or scan your smart card at the machine to pass through the gate. At the exit, you once again need to scan your card at the machine to exit, and the fare is automatically deducted. Normally, the fare is only 3 yuan (MMK 600) and the maximum possible fare is 9 yuan.
During my first few days in Beijing, I wasn’t sure how to take the subway. I thought that subway lines were very complicated and the names of the stations were difficult to remember. Within a few days, however, I found the process to be much easier as long as you use a subway map or a smartphone app. You only need to look for the station that is closest to the place you want to go.
The modern card-scanning machines of today were first used 10 years ago. Before 2002, there were only two subway lines running in Beijing and the previous ticketing system had been used for 27 years.
Oct. 1, 2018, will mark both the 49th anniversary of Beijing subway operations and the 69th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
As China has constantly worked to improve and innovate Beijing’s subway system, there are now a total of 19 subway lines in Beijing. With more than $30 billion in recent investment, more and more lines are currently under construction.
In Myanmar, traffic jams are a daily occurrence. Can the construction of a subway system be a solution? I certainly believe it’s something that could be considered.