Beijing Subway Can Get A Wee Crowded In The Mornings

What you are looking at is Beijing Subway’s Line 13 on the morning of Thursday, July 18, around 7:30. It’s likely the Xierqi station — a picture of which, tweeted out by Joe Xu, we linked to on Friday — which is a transfer station and one of the cleaner, better-looking ones in the system. It has, like other stations in Beijing’s vast underground transportation network, built-in artificial bottlenecks intended to relieve congestion in the form of gates and narrow staircases. On some occasions, however, those fail. For you see, in China, sometimes there are simply too many goddamn people.

China is explained for you in this one video. Want to know why this country is the way it is? People. Many of them. Why is the pollution so bad? Too many people. Why are people pushy? Too many people. Why is there no soft power? The government censors too much shit and suppresses expression because they’re afraid of the people — the people of which there are too goddamn many.

We’ve circled the Xierqi station below in red, a color that is what one sees, proverbially, amid such congestion, and a fine representation of hell, a circle in which is surely constructed with Xierqi station on Beijing Subway Line 13 as a model.

Xierqi subway station Line 13 Beijing Subway

If we’ve seen worse, it’s not by much.

Also see: The Mother of All Traffic Jams (Warning: It’s Horrifying)

(H/T Reddit)

    16 Responses to “Beijing Subway Can Get A Wee Crowded In The Mornings”

    1. mike

      I do believe i spot an Escalator in the background… which makes it a 5 star station by Beijing standards ;) most of them are rock and rubble.

    2. Flying Tiger

      Ahh… XiErQi… The station I get off at when I am visiting my development team in Beijing. Thankfully, I am coming from the ShangDi direction and avoid (most) of the crowds (plus I always leave for the office a little earlier than most).

      Great photo!

    3. Ian G

      The train is full. Jam packed. Think sardines. Why is it that Chinese cannot figure out that before someone gets ON the train (or in the elevator) someone has to get OFF and for that to happen they have to be ALLOWED to get off i.e. the doorway cannot be blocked by seething masses of people trying to get ON. I used to use a forearm at Chinese throat height in front of me and barge out, otherwise I would still be on the subway.

      • Patrick Carroll

        I’ve traveled to Beijing, China, and I’ve lived in Yokohama, Japan.

        As it comes to train crowds, I have had many similar experiences in Japan, though even at Shinjuku the train pulls up on a platform with clearly marked (on the ground) avenues for entry and exit, and the protocol – exit, then entry – is pretty strictly observed. Still, when the train packs, it packs.

        I think the difference we see here is between low- and high-trust societies. In Japan there’s a highly-developed sense of community. In China, by comparison, it’s every man for himself.

        Hence the results.

        My $0.02, for what it’s worth.

    4. laowai88

      Great photo!

      This is what happens when everyone works the same hours and therefore commutes at the same time, in a city where rents have gone up so much that most people can only afford to live outside the 5th Ring Road.

    5. Gal

      Having visited Japan, I can testify that it does not need to be that way, even in rush hour. I’m claiming that it is not “too many people”.

    6. Terence

      I don’t disagree that China has lots of people. Nor would I disagree that having more people contributes to congestion, or that if there were less people the subway experience would be infinitely better.

      What I do see in China, is that whenever a problem exists, the standard excuse is “there are too many people”. In the north this mentality is particularly pervasive, to the point nobody seems bothered to ever find solutions.

      Line 13 – train length of six carriages, with a frequency of 3.5 minutes per train. Hong Kong MTR: Island line trains have length of eight carriages, with frequency of 2 minutes during morning rush hour. (Ever noticed how Beijing subway trains brake so damn slowly whilst the acceleration / deceleration rates in HK are much higher?)

      Is it any surprise that Line 13 feels congested? Is it any surprise that many people refuse to take the subway in Beijing, whereas in Hong Kong many eligible car owners don’t want one?

      Yes, China has too many people, but when the government finally pull their head out of their asses and try to find solutions to these problems… they might just find that there are less people than they think!

    7. Some traveller

      They should not let so many people into the station at the same time. There should be a “waiting room” and only limited amounts of people should be allowed to pass to the platforms at one time.

      Sure, many people, but it’s a question of organization. And yes, in Taipei they are many people too (altough, I admit, less then in Beijing) and they simply wait for people to get off first.

      Never understood why that simple rule doesn’t work in China…

      • Ken in NH

        Great, you’ve moved the location of the bottle neck, now what? People will still be pushing to get in, just at the platform entrance instead of the train entrance. They will still not queue or yield to other passengers in a fair manner.

        You have also created an additional problem of having to intelligently decide how many people to let onto the platform. If few people get off of the train, you will have the same problem. If too many get off of the train, the train will be underutilized because passengers were held up at the waiting area.

        Outside of alternative modes of transportation, the only solutions here are to increase train lengths (add more cars), add trains on the route, and/or increase travel speeds between stations to move more people more quickly. The problem with the correct solutions are that all of them add to the operating costs on an ongoing basis and the money allocated to the budget is set by central planners with no incentive to find more money (or really any way to get more money outside of begging for it).

        A private enterprise, on the other hand, would see that profits increase when more people are served and served more efficiently and make the appropriate capital expenditures and budget increases. They would also cut back or eliminate inefficient routes for lack of profit; something that governments are notorious for not doing.

      • JohnnyLaowai

        you obviously have not ridden the subway system in Beijing. Knowing that it has been built years ago before anticipated use with construction taking up nearly all available space around subway stations (xierqi being a recent exception) youd know that there is no place for a ‘waiting area’ in most stops. – Upgrading the train system and rail system would be needed before they could upgrade the car and time intervals and still maintain relative safety. They actuually did hash out all these numbers and trials besofe the olympics in 2008. Thus the goverments LARGE influx iof money into transportation infastructure in Beijing and the nation. I would hazard a guess that Beijing speciifically has put more money into transportatin infastructure than any other city on the planet over the last 5 years. THey are doing what they can, while trying to balance the number of cars on the road and over population at the same time.

    8. jamesbbkk

      Not too many people. Too many people without manners. You can find this behavior in London and Manila and beyond where PRC Chinese are present. By the way, you can’t even see the spit on the ground in this footage. Mostly though they deserve our sympathy for still believing that the “People” in “People’s” have a say or interest in anything at all.

    9. Sarah Bermingham

      Hi there. My news agency love your video and have sent a message to your YouTube inbox about it. It would be great if you could have a read over and let us know what you think! Alternatively, you can contact us – Thanks! Sarah Bermingham

    10. Ken in NH

      This is not too many people but a failure of culture (low-trust society) and central planning (a feature of all government-run mass transit, not just China). Governments are not responsive to things like overcrowding or bottlenecks because there is no incentive in it. Organizations that work for profit instead, have great incentives to maximize usability and utilization which makes them responsive to demand.

      • Archie Leach

        Subways/metros are NOT “commodities” or a “transportation option”. In congested cities like New York City or Chicago or San Francisco or Paris or London or Tokyo or Seoul or Shanghai or Moscow or Beijing the density is such that if everyone had to option to automobiles like murcans in the hellburbs, Midtown Manhattan and the Chicago Loop or London’s City would turn into an absolute and complete gridlock STOP! That’s why the London’s and Paris’s and Moscows and Beijings and NYCs and San Francisco operate SUBSIDIZED public transportation. To NOT operate it would result in the above stopped gridlock. THE REASON that subways/metros are NOT privately operated is because the result WILL BE THE ABOVE GRIDLOCK STOP in those urban areas because a privatized transportation system would result in the majority of lines getting shutdown by the FOR-PROFIT transit operator. NYC subway as an example would probably see way more than half of it’s 37 or so subway lines closed “because they don’t produce a profit”. I take it “Ken in NH” that YOU use your private automobile to get around in the exurb YOU exist in and thus don’t have the faintest clue about urban transportation. It’s the existence of “gubment” subsidized urban transportation that very extremely dense urban core cities like Manhattan and San Francisco and London and Paris and Tokyo and Seoul and Shanghai can possibly exist. Without that mass rapid transit (subway/metro), cities end up looking like Los Angeles and Las Vegas and Dallas and Houston and Phoenix and Indianapolis where there’s no urban core and EVERYTHING is spread out and sprawled across a “city” that is hundreds and hundred miles across. People around the world flock to the Manhattans and San Franciscos and Londons and Paris’s BECAUSE OF THE URBAN DENSITY which is what makes those city’s attractive to visitors. LA and Las Vegas ONLY get international visitors because of Disneyland and Universal and gambling but no one cares about the LA or Las Vegas outside of those attractions because there is nothing else. BUT people travel from around the world to London or Tokyo or Manhattan FOR THE CITYS THEMSELVES. And that’s because they are considered real “urban centers” and those “real dense urban centers” ONLY can exist because of the SUBSIDIZED subway/metro. The New York Citys and Londons and so forth CHOOSE to pay to operate “gubment” subsidized subways/metros or otherwise they WOULD be nothing but LAs and Houstons and Dallas’s and Phoenixs. IF you want to see urban areas that DO have dense urban cores but don’t have subways/metros just youtube the streets of cities in India or Vietnam or Indonesia or Thailand or the Philippines or in South America and you get an idea of what Manhattan and/or San Francisco would look like without metros/subways. That’s why people that live in the Manhattans or San Franciscos or Londons or Moscows or Shanghais scream and complain about their subways/metros but being without those subways/metros would result in an environment that would be straight out of hell as we know from subwayless/metroless dense cities around the globe.


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