Bus and subway fares in Beijing are poised to increase under proposals released by the city’s top economic planner on Oct 13.
The initial subway fare will either remain at 2 yuan (32 US cents) or rise to 3 yuan, but fares will then increase according to distance traveled.
Under the Beijing Commission of Development and Reform’s proposals, which are aimed at reducing government public transportation subsidies, the average subway fare paid will be 4.30 or 4.40 yuan.
Frequent commuters can receive discounts ranging from 20 percent to 50 percent depending on the monthly amount they spend on the subway.
Bus fares will start at either 1 or 2 yuan and increase with distance traveled.
Some groups, including the elderly, the disabled and students, will continue to enjoy free or cheaper tickets.
Public opinion will be sought on the proposals and a public hearing held on Oct 28 before the authorities decide which to adopt, according to the commission.
The subway fare in Beijing has been 2 yuan since 2007, regardless of distance traveled. The municipal government has encouraged the use of public transportation to ease congestion on the roads by retaining the nation’s lowest subway fare.
The fare for most bus routes starts at 1 yuan, but passengers can pay 0.40 yuan by using a stored value card.
The commission said low fares have greatly encouraged the use of public transportation, but have placed a heavy burden on the municipal government as it has to provide huge subsidies each year to compensate for a deficiency in ticket revenue.
Since 2007, subsidies for public transportation in Beijing have increased by 19 percent annually. Between 2007 and 2013, the city invested 96 billion yuan in such subsidies, the commission said.
Subway cars are frequently overcrowded and measures restricting passenger flow have been taken at 54 stations on 10 lines during peak hours. The overcrowding has increased safety risks, the commission said.
By the end of last year, the capital’s subway network stood at 465 km, according to the Beijing Commission of Transport, accommodating more than 10 million commuters a day and making it one of the world’s longest.
The proposals released on Oct 13 drew widespread attention, with Internet users posting a host of comments. While some commuters complained about the increases, many voiced acceptance.
“I have been used to paying a flat fare of 2 yuan on the subway, but I am uncomfortable with the sudden increase,” said a netizen using the name Maimingyinxing. “Luckily, the increase is not that much and fares will still be lower than in other cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou.”
In Shanghai, subway fares start at 3 yuan, with passengers paying more than 10 yuan to travel long distances.
Chen Yanyan, a professor of transportation at Beijing University of Technology, said, “The new measures will ease pressure on public transportation in Beijing.”
Chen is one of 25 people representing Beijing residents who will take part in the public hearing on Oct 28.
She said that with subway fares set to rise, more people traveling shorter distances may use buses, where the fare increases are not so high.
Li Fuli, an independent analyst, said government subsidies for public transportation should be transparent to the public.
“The public has the right to know how much money has been used to subsidize public transportation, and how this money has been used,” Li said.