If you're not quite up for battling traffic on a bicycle, don't have a car, and can't spend half an hour waiting every time you need a taxi, what can you do? The subway doesn't open until next year, so it looks like you'll be getting on the bus.
Buses in Chengdu have traditionally been associated with chaotic crowds of people pushing and shoving to get on, babies relieving themselves on your feet, an engine that's anything but smooth, and smearing your way through a sweaty crowd when you finally get to your stop. With recent fires and collisions, buses' are getting a really bad rap, and so, to improve their public image, the Chengdu Public Transportation Group has been expanding the fleet and upgrading vehicles, stops, and the central dispatch center. With traffic getting ever-worse, it might just be faster to get on the bus than to wait ... and wait ... and wait some more for that taxi.
Map websites edushi and baidu map both offer bus-route search functions for Chengdu (and other Chinese cities). To use them, find the 公交 link and enter the bus line number you want to search or your starting and ending points.
This month, the Chengdu Public Transportation Group launched a new SMS service that allows passengers to check bus route information via text message. While the service is currently available only in Chinese, the menu is relatively simple to navigate.
1. Send the letters "GJ" to 10628106.
2. The system will send you a message. If you would like to pay a monthly unlimited-use fee of RMB1.2, send "GJ" to 1062810628. If you prefer to pay a one-time use fee of 0.3 mao per message, send "GJ" to 1062810629. (The first message is free.)
3. Next, you will receive a message that tells you to reply to it with one of the following:
a. If you want to check all the stops on one line, send "XL" + [the number of the bus line you want to check]
b. If you want to check which lines run between two points, send "ZC" + [the name of the bus stop you're departing from] 到 [the name of the bus stop you're going to], e.g., "ZC天府广场到火车北站"
c. If you want to check locations where you can top up your bus pass, send "CZD"
d. If you want to check the amount left on your bus pass, send "CY"
4. If you do it right, you'll receive a message with the information you requested; if you do it wrong, you'll receive a message describing in greater detail (with examples) of how to format your SMS.
For both the websites and the SMS system, it's best to know the precise names of the stops; the search functions tend to work not very well if you put in just a street name or landmark.
For more information on the Chengdu Public Transportation Group click here