China / Regions

Shuttle bus makes time fly for Beijing commuters

By Jin Haixing (China Daily) Updated: 2013-10-18 08:10

A subscription bus service is gaining popularity with commuters in Beijing, especially private car owners, the service provider says.

The service gives commuters the chance to avoid crowded subway carriages and buses on work days, with higher fares than the regular bus service and a set timetable and destinations.

It has attracted 1,600 commuters on its 27 routes since the first route was launched on Sept 9, Beijing Public Transport Holdings said.

Commuters can subscribe to the service three days in advance. The fare for a distance of 20 km, for example, is 15 yuan ($2.50), while the same trip by taxi costs about 100 yuan.

Based on research into predicted demand, 62 bus routes to 31 destinations, with 168 bus stops, will be launched in the future, the company said.

A survey of subscribers shows that 60 percent of customers for the shuttle bus service are private car drivers.

Passenger-use on a route from the Huilongguan area in northern Beijing to Zhongguancun, an information technology hub in the northwest of the capital, has reached 75 percent.

Equipped with air conditioning and free Wi-Fi, the service ensures a seat for every commuter and can use exclusive bus lanes, reducing traveling time significantly for rush-hour commuters.

A man named Guo, who works in the central business district, said that before he took the subscription bus service he used to drive his car from the Wangjing area and had to pay about 50 yuan to park every day.

He said he was often caught in traffic jams in rush hours.

"The subscription shuttle bus offers me a point-to-point service. It is clean and comfortable and better than the crowded subway," he said.

Last week, a China Daily reporter took the same bus route that Guo uses.

Although the bus was caught in a traffic jam at the start of its route and again near the destination, the trip from 7:35 am to 8:30 am went smoothly because the route included the Fourth Ring Road and a special bus lane on the Beijing-Tongzhou Expressway.

The operator says use of the new service has increased on routes in eastern areas of the capital, where most routes use the special bus lanes. But the situation in northern areas, where there is a lack of such lanes, is not so good.

The company said in a statement that only 60 percent of services on routes where there are no bus lanes reach their destination on time.

A micro-blogger named Xiaoliu Feixiang said she hopes the government can set up special bus lanes on Beijing's main ring road expressways to solve the problem.

Xu Kangming, a transport expert and founder of 3E Transportation Systems, said the government should offer more exclusive lanes for efficient bus services, to encourage more people to use public transport.

Xu said the routes for the subscription service launched last month were a good starting point and the service has many advantages with its booking system compared to similar services in other countries.

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