Public Transit in China

As an expat living in China, one of the biggest differences between life at home and China is the public transit system. Most glaring is the sheer number of people that rely on it daily. Here in Shanghai, there are 12 metro lines and over 434 kilometers (~270 miles) of track; the longest network of track in the world and the 5th busiest! To put that in perspective, in 2012 Shanghai had 2.276 billion riders, while New York City had 1.665 billion riders. By 2020, the Shanghai Metro is projected to have 18 metro lines and over 970 km (~603 miles) of track in operation.

Unsurprisingly, the Shanghai Metro and public buses are packed. Most foreigners aren’t accustomed to the general lack of courtesy or the nonexistent lining-up (queuing) to get onto the bus or train. It’s like a mosh pit of old people at a Hatebreed concert as locals try to push through the same doorway as you. Beware of the old ladies bags and their rolling carts! I’ve also had a few stiff-arms to the chest or elbows to the ribs as people try to go through you rather than around you to enter or disembark from the train!

In the beginning it would really annoy me, but once you realize it’s the way of the world here in China and just accept it, things get much easier. You have to be assertive sometimes and other times you really will just have to wait for the next train or bus to come, which will sometimes make you really late!

The “courtesy” seats for the elderly, sick, handicapped, pregnant, etc. is really just a sign over a seat on the end of the bench. I have rarely seen an able-bodied person relinquish his seat for another more deserving person. Although, if you have a seat and give it nicely to an old person or whomever you usually get a big smile and a thank you!

Looking at the whole picture though, although it can be uncomfortable or kind of hot and rude, the Shanghai public transit system is a marvel to behold. I’m glad I live in a city that has a system that is so easy to use and convenient. The same card for Shanghai Metro also can be used on the buses, you just pay ¥20 for the card and charge it up to however much you would like; when you’re finished with your card you can return it and get some money back too! Overall the system is something I couldn’t live without in Shanghai, taxis are too expensive over the long run!