Maiden voyage on Shunyi Line 15: clean and not yet overcrowded. Photos by Charlotte Moreau
It was only mid-April 2009 when construction for the new subway Line 15 began, connecting Shunyi to the downtown area. That’s a mere 20 months since we watched and waited for this much anticipated transportation system to be built. And today – December 30 at 2pm– it finally opened!
My family of four boarded the train at 2:35pm, and it was obvious that those few with us were excited about the new line. There were people, myself included, taking pictures of the inside, as well as of the passengers riding it. There was even a television crew for a Chinese station in our car.
We were excited to give the subway a try and see how this might change the frequency of our trips to the city.
First, let me clarify: We are complete newbies to the subway system. We rode it here during the Olympics, and we’ve given it a go in other areas (Hong Kong, for example). Otherwise, much of this experience was new. My notes reflect as much, and I encourage – no, I BEG for — input from those of you with more subway knowledge. Please post your pearls of wisdom for the rest of us below.
We were unsure which stations might be open, so we drove out to the furthest point at the Houshayu Station. It’s about 6km from Pinnacle Plaza, just before the roundabout with that interesting flower sculpture in the middle. There was parking available there for RMB 2, and it didn’t appear that there was any time limit for that price. Turns out we could have easily started at the China Exhibition Center Station, which is closer to us. We didn’t know that it was open, though, and it doesn’t appear that there is any parking available at this station yet. Will keep you posted on those developments.
Happy travelers headed downtown.
Typical security belts were inside for scanning personal belongings, as well as ticket and information booths. Cost for a ticket was RMB 2, but we chose to instead buy a card for what we hope will be more frequent use. I don’t quite understand all of that, though – the RMB 100 card cost us RMB 120, and I’m certain that there has got to be a good reason for it. Convenience? Discounted use rates? Not sure, but we have cards now.
We did learn that buying two cards wasn’t enough for our family as we weren’t able to swipe them more than once. The many security guards around there were most helpful, though, and having seen us purchase the cards moments before, they swiped us in themselves to let us through. I don’t know why you can’t use one card for more than one person, but now we own four cards after buying two new ones at the transfer station.
So, beginning at Houshayu, we stopped at Hualikan and then the Expo Center Stations, before heading towards Wangjing with five extra stops. At the moment, Line 15 ends at Wangjing, but in the future it will continue towards the Olympic Green. From the furthermost station at Houshayu to the end stop at Wangjing, the ride was 25 minutes long.
Line 15 is the dotted yellow line. From Wikipedia. Click the graphic for Wikipedia’s full map of the entire Beijing suwaby system.
We decided to see how long it would take to get to the center of the city, or near there. I wanted to check out the Gap Store at Wangfujing (which I loved…), so we chose to make three transfers (Lines 13, 2 and 1) to end at Wangfujing Street. This total trip was one hour and five minutes. We might have been able to drive it in that length of time, but there are so many reasons not to: cost, parking, gambling with the traffic, and simple adventure. We certainly chose a freezing day to make this adventure, but riding the new line on the first day was pretty cool.
Note on crowds: The trip out of Houshayu was not crowded, but every car did have plenty of people in it. As we neared Wangjing, it picked up in people-traffic. The expected downtown Lines of 2 and 1 were very crowded, especially on the return trip during rush hour. Not smart planning on our part and a little scary for my girls, but it was all part of the experience.
We won’t always travel to the middle of the city. It’s nice to know that we can easily get places without worrying about no-drive days or parking issues. If the rumors about the parking rates going up will, indeed, come to fruition, then that’s yet another good reason to get to know the subway system better.
When in doubt, seek the info booth.
It’s intimidating at first; most information is in Chinese only (pinyin, though, which is a must). You need to know where you’re going first so you can follow the signs and get on the right lines, but with the numbers and color codes, we didn’t have any problem with that. The graphic design of the maps follows the London Underground Tube system that was designed in the 1930s by Harry Beck, one that most major cities have adopted for clear understanding of routes, although not meant to be of correct scale.
We were starting to wonder if Line 15 would actually begin. We first tried to go on December 28, but saw the sign saying to come back on the 30th. We were there this morning, only to be turned back because it didn’t open until 2pm. Whatever the reasons for delay, it is now open for business – a fun day out during winter break, and a promising adventure to explore on a more regular basis.