Beijing subway is notorious for overcrowding – passengers are crammed in like sardines in the metal boxes during peak hours. Part of the reason is the ultra-low ticket price. Passengers need to pay just 2 yuan (33 US cents) for any ride no matter if it is a 400-meter short hop or an 88-kilometer journey.
The fare was introduced in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games as authorities sought to encourage residents to use the metro to alleviate congestion on the city’s roads. But it has remained unchanged since then.
Now some argue that the low fare has attracted too many riders, and indeed, overcrowding is now a public safety concern – Beijing Subway carried a total of 3.2 billion passengers last year.
Beijing News reports that the municipal authorities are mulling a plan to hike the fare with a baseline price of 3-4 yuan. It is said that on average every commuter will have to pay an additional 200 yuan a month should the plan is given the go-ahead.
Perhaps the real motive behind the plan is to shed the hefty subsidy for subway operations, reportedly the municipal government’s largest expense related to livelihood issues. The Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport says that with the current fare regime, the government has to subsidize 2 yuan for each journey and that the annual expense exceeded 20 billion yuan in 2013, even higher than the funding on healthcare and public housing.
A fare increase may reduce the subsidy burden. But anyone thinking that the price hike will help make the trains less crowded may still be disappointed. A recent NetEase poll has found that the majority of passengers – 92 percent of the 1,500 riders surveyed — will still chose the subway for the sake of punctuality. There are also complaints that bus services are just inadequate for people living in major suburban commuter towns.
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