I came across this article on Business Insider recently: Video: Crowds At Beijing’s Xierqi Station. It shows a video (also posted below) and a few explanations of why Chinese public transportation is a challenge.
I take the bus to work every day and every day is a new experience:
- Early on in my tenure in China it was getting my wallet stolen from my purse as I rode the bus to work. I didn’t realize it was missing until I went to pay for my breakfast at 7-Eleven. Bye-bye credit cards, passport, driver’s license, work permit, cash, bank card, dignity…
- Another day I felt violated as a large Chinese man used his body to box me into a corner and subtly rub his crotch against me.
- Some days are good, and I play peekaboo with the little babies that sit and stare at me.
- Some days are not so great and I get off the bus covered in sweat. Most of it is mine, but some belongs to the other passengers that were forced to rub against me by the sheer number of people on the bus.
- One Saturday morning on my way to work an elderly Chinese lady treated us all to an impromptu sampling of her Chinese opera skills.
- Often the bus lurches unexpectedly as the driver contends with blind pedestrians, reckless scooter drivers, and ruthless taxi drivers. Usually this means I fall into another passenger and have to apologize profusely while enduring, red-faced, the glare of others at the stupid “laowai” who doesn’t know to hold on at all times.
- I’ve seen bus drivers refuse to take on homeless passengers; to then have those potential passengers shout obscenities at the whole bus. That was the first time I had heard Chinese profanity used and actually understood what it meant.
- People take all manner of odd items on public transportation: printers, bags of clothing, musical instruments, etc. I myself have been known to carry a rug, an oven, a down comforter, bed sheets, and a fan…all at the same time, no less!
- Then there are the line cheaters. People who do not wait patiently in line to get on the bus or subway, but simply elbow their way in as soon as the vehicle of choice pulls up. I hope there is a special circle of hell reserved for those people.
- Learning bus etiquette: If the bus has three doors enter through the middle and exit through the front or rear doors. If the bus has two doors, enter through the forward door and exit through the rear door. Heaven forbid you use the wrong door!
There is truly nothing like being stuck on an airless bus in July in rush-hour bumper-to-bumper traffic with 5 dozen other miserable souls who simply must get to work as cheaply as possible. That generally means the bus, which is .4 RMB with a metro card if you go less than 14 stops .8 RMB if you go further than that. 1 RMB without the card. The subway costs only 2 RMB, but can be just as crowded as the video shows. Also, it can be a bit of a hike from some housing developments. Taxis are by far the most expensive, particularly when stuck in rush hour traffic. It can cost close to 30 RMB to get from my apartment to work, a distance of only a few kilometers.