Subway officials let it slip in the Chinese media this morning that public transportation prices will be re-evaluated on an annual basis from here on out, shocking news to a ridership that is just now facing its first substantial price hike in nearly a decade.
In a small news brief that appeared as part of larger coverage of the price hike due to be implemented December 28, media reports indicate that the adjustments of subway and bus fares will be considered every year from here on out, which leaves the door open for the money-losing network to hike prices again next year.
While the countdown clock is now on until the December 28 price hike, questions still remain about its implementation … both from legitimate subway commuters and devious scammers who are already hard at work on figuring out how to beat the price hike.
Here’s a summary of what Chinese media are talking about:
Q. How am I supposed to know the travel distance (and fare) when I’m buying a single ride ticket?
A: There will be a distance chart in each subway station which shows the prices from one destination to the other. There will also be a map with colored areas indicating different prices too. So you will be able to know how far away your destination is and how much your ticket will be before you buy your tickets.
Q. Will there be any additional discount plans available?
A. Officials are planning off-peak discounts that apply for trips made outside of rush hours, but the likely launch date for such as plan is still a year off. They are also planning to eventually launch one-day unlimited ride tickets and subway/bus cross transport tickets. Currently being evaluated are monthly and yearly unlimited ride passes.
Q. Will there be a time limit for a single ride?
A. Yes, there will be a time limit for each ride, specifically targeting touts and vagrants who occasionally hang out in the subways, and to prevent ticket-swapping (see below).
Q. Can I outsmart the system by partnering up with someone coming in the other direction?
A. Conceivably, yes. Two people traveling in opposite directions could swap their tickets mid-journey and see their fares reduced. Say Wang lives at Tiantongyuan (the far north end of Line 5) and goes to work at Liujiayao (near the far south end of Line 5), and Li does exactly the opposite. The two could swap tickets every morning at Hepingxijie Station, the mid-point of their travels, so both of them will appear to be getting on and off at the same station every morning and spend only the base fare which is RMB 3 for an almost end-to-end trip on Line 5. No kidding, some folks are even working on apps for ticket-swapping groups. But before you get too excited about it, officials are promising to find a way to outsmart such schemes by relying on the timing of card swipes.
Q. How much will it be if I get on and off from the same station?
A. Yet to be determined. In the current subway system, it’s the base fare (RMB 2), and there is no time limit for you to get on and off at the same station.
Q. What if I don’t have enough credit in my yikatong when I exit a station?
A. Currently you can get a subway ride with your yikatong as long as you have a positive balance on it – even if you only have 1 kuai in your yikatong, you can still enter a station and take a ride (except for the airport express) and repay the negative credit when you recharge your card. However, there is no indication of whether this policy will carry on after the fare adjustment.
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on November 28, 2014.