Written by 安德雷
Trains have gained on popularity in the past years, and so have airplanes. Pharaonic railway hubs and airports are being constructed all over China as we speak, with a transit capacity for millions, while hundreds of kilometers of subway lines are being opened for service each year. According to the announcements, Hangzhou will have four completed metro lines in the next 4-5 years. Still, bus remains the No. 1 daily mean of transportation for most Chinese people. In reality, this means lots of waiting, pushing and squeezing. Of course, China is not the only country where buses are the work horse of local transport, but is sure is a country with the smallest buses around. As a Hangzhou resident, I’ll try to elaborate.
Today, Hangzhou has one operational subway line, bikes, taxis, and plenty, plenty, plenty of buses (some trolleys too). So, the bus transport system should be functioning good then? Well… sort of, but… let’s get off with the positive traits: For one – it’s cheap. 2-4 Kuai will cost you to get a ride, which is quite affordable compared to European fares. With a monthly card it’s even less than that. More so, buses are frequent in general, waiting doesn’t take longer than 15-20 minutes at the worst, together with many stops being equipped with a waiting timer. However, when the bus finally does arrive, that’s the moment when the tables start to turn.
Hangzhou is a metropolis of about 7 million, and as such, it’s crowded most of the time. What’s more, knowing that this is a major tourist hub, it’s gets even more packed with people during weekends and holidays, especially big Chinese festivities like the Spring Festival, Mid Autumn Festival or Mayday. This mess affects the city’s transportation greatly and makes the squeeze even tighter. Seeing hundreds crammed under a bus stop is a rather common sight during those days, and as for the buses themselves, the most approximate term to describe their interior is: A can of sardines – Sweaty, smelly, tight squeeze. Such scenes are not uncommon even on daily basis, especially during rush hours which seem to last for a half-day here in China. Of course, this is not the passengers’ problem. People need to go places and they pay for it. The bus count may be high, they may be getting younger and greener (big thumbs up for hybrids and the new BYD electric buses), but there simply isn’t enough of them to keep up. Capital cause for this problem the buses’ confined capacity – An average Hangzhou bus is equipped with about 35 seats per vehicle. Join that with only 2 doors (mind You the front entry door is quite narrow), a bus quite quickly becomes one cattle truck where a journey during rush hour can roughly be depicted as Dante’s Inferno. Yes, The BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system made it all better, however, it operates with a small number of lines just in a few busiest routes. So… the solution is…? One, for Hangzhou should purchase bigger buses with more doors and seats. Chinese manufacturers have a very wide range of vehicles and I’m quite sure they have something to offer. Second, dump the useless minibus lines and replace them with regular buses. Finally, expand the BRT and speed up the subway construction for the love of God! And for the end, a small plea for the factories themselves – please do not install the upholstered seats in your vehicles. They never get cleaned… ever.