Opinion: Subway Line 1
To start off, yes, I am still alive. I’ve been busy these past few days/weeks! Classes have started and after sorting through Week 1 logistical issues, I’ve got my schedule set.
Anyway, I’ve been wanting to express my opinions regarding Line 1 of the subway. Now before I begin, I want to say that I understand there is reasoning and logic behind why some things are the way they are. I’m not complaining, just expressing my opinions.
So Line 1 has hit the 40 year mark, having opened in 1971. Being the first subway line to have been built, it is possible (and understandable) that many attractions or areas of interest or businesses have opened near line 1. Off the top of my head, line 1 hits popular places like Xidan, Tiananmen Square, Wangfujing, and CBD. Tourists will be attracted to line 1, so will regular people who commute to and from work using the subway.
At almost any time of the day on any given day, line 1 will be full of people, comparatively at least. It’s not always completely packed, but even at odd times in the day at odd stops, there will be more people, in my experience, riding line 1 than any other line. Ridership has hit about 1.6 million daily. Without a doubt, line 1 is the busiest line of the 15 lines in operation.
First off, the people. It is entirely way too crowded, in my opinion, on line 1. There was a time when a group of us study abroad students had to pull one of our friends off the subway because it was just too packed inside. I’m a relatively bulky guy and I usually exit with ease; I helped clear a path for the other students we were with. But one student was trapped inside, being too courteous to push or shove. As a complete tourist, understanding little of the language, not having a phone or map, we couldn’t leave him. We had little choice but to grab his arm and pull him out, completely disregarding any of the passengers in his way.
I’m sure in winter, the amount of people is delightful…all these people giving off body heat in Beijing-winter weather. But in the Beijing heat, all these people giving off body heat is not a pleasant experience at all.
And this helps bring me into my second point: these trains are old. There are trains that are 10-20 years old, easy. Some trains are newer, some are clearly much older. Some trains have air conditioning, quickly rendered useless by the sheer volume of riders, some trains have nothing. Given a majority of the subway system was built in the past decade, riding these antiquated trains is quite an experience.
To add on to age, many of the subway stations along line 1 themselves look old and lack many modern luxuries that the other subway stations have. The bright fluorescent lights in the terminals gives off a 90s feeling. Newer stations have better lighting…I’m no light bulb expert, but I’d say it’s darker in the newer stations. It’s still well lit, but the lights aren’t giving off a bright, powerful yellow glow.
The subway stations along line 1 (and, admittedly, some others) lack doors along the tracks. I don’t think there’s a term for this, but basically there are doors along the entire platform with doors that open when the subway arrives. Basically, you cannot jump down onto the tracks. In newer lines, these were installed to prevent suicides (and some accidents) caused by jumping on the track in front of a moving subway train. It doesn’t really give the feeling of safety, especially when people are all crowded around. Why they haven’t installed (/upgraded) the platforms of line 1 stations, I really don’t know. Perhaps it’s an aesthetic thing? Or a structural integrity thing? I don’t know. But it’d be nice and give the platforms a bit of a modern look.
In short, the subway stations along line 1 are clearly outdated. The bright yellow fluorescent lighting along with the yellow painted walls and the dirty and chipped tiles in the stairs make the walk (or squeeze depending on the amount of riders) through the station a rather unpleasant one, at least for me. Oh, I forgot to mention, there’s a lack of air conditioning or any sort of air flow along most line 1 stations. In my experience, many line 1 stations are rather far from the exits compared to other lines. In that, I mean the ticket booth/main walking area, for example, is further from any exit than other lines. This means there’s an increased lack of air flow. For most exits, you have to walk quite a bit (compared to other lines) before you actually get to the exit.
Off the top of my head, those are the things I dislike about line 1. In short: the sheer amount of riders and the semi-outdated (because some trains are newer) trains and the clearly antiquated subway stations.
Don’t get me wrong, the Beijing subway system is definitely an amazing system. There are 15 operating lines with more still under construction, and even more being planned. It’s easy and convenient to ride. The subway/transportation cards they use is pretty cool too. The subway card can be used on the buses as well, which means public transit can be paid using one simple card. The flat 2RMB fare is very fair (unlimited transfers) and the 0.40RMB fare for bus rides is really cheap too.
My gripes with line 1 will continue to exist…I mean, I doubt the MTR will suddenly renovate all the line 1 stations and replace the line 1 trains. Everything still works. And I’m sure for Chinese standards, line 1 is perfect and the newer lines are even more perfect. But I guess my western standards and views don’t match up. However, I will continue to ride line 1; I will continue to appreciate the fact that a trip costs a little over 50 cents (US) - 2RMB to go somewhere, 2RMB to come back.
Still a great system, nonetheless.