Within a few months of the announcement, construction had begun on this massive project—an elevated layer looming large over the Second Ring Road—and Chengdu residents bid farewell to what they had known as the human-scale roadway encircling the city.
Local media reports had announced a projected construction-completion date of June 2013, and they weren't far off their mark— while the second layer is already open for car traffic the first BRT buses are scheduled to be put into operation on May 31.
The special features of Chengdu's BRT will include the elevated roadway, toll-gate stations, and station design that integrates the city's image (for instance, the Jinsha golden sunbird appears as a motif at some stations). The vehicles themselves will also be customized to the system; they will be larger than ordinary city buses, articulated (or "bendy"), with multiple, wide doors and lower floors for faster loading times.
In the meanwhile, the routes of your favorite Second Ring Road buses will change to better integrate with the system. Lines 51 and 52, which formerly circled the Second Ring Road, will stop running altogether.
The BRT vehicles will circulate around the two innermost lanes of the roadway, one for each direction. The other component of the construction project, of course, are the other two lanes on the elevated roadway, which are reserved for the exclusive use of cars. Trucks, buses, pedestrians, bikes, scooters, and motorbikes are all expressly forbidden from these lanes. Automobile drivers must stay in these lanes, though, and away from the BRT lanes, or they risk being fined RMB100 and having three points deducted from their record.
How to Ride
Tickets will need to be purchased before passing through the station gates.
Individual rides cost RMB2, which is good for up to two hours and three transfers.
For transit-pass holders, the same discounts as for bus rides apply to the BRT (50 percent discount with the monthly option and 10 percent discount with the electronic wallet option)
Operating Times and Frequency
The BRT system will operate between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Vehicles will arrive at intervals of 90 seconds during peak hours
Vehicles will arrive at intervals of three minutes during non-peak hours
Late-hour intervals will be four to six minutes
Every station will be outfitted with an LED signboard to announce the arrival time of the next vehicles, using GPS
BRT by Numbers
Price to ride: 2 yuan (full fare)
Vehicle capacity: 180 passengers
Average speed 26 kmph
29.3: The number of kilometers of the total journey
Average time it takes to make one lap: Slightly more than one hour
Average passenger capacity per station: 400
300,000: expected daily passenger capacity
Average distance between stations: Approximately 1 kilometer
Maximum distance between stations: 2 kilometers
Minimum distance between stations: 500 meters
Total number of kilometers of new roadway laid for this project: 43.7, making it the single largest municipal government-invested project to date
Bus Rapid Transit
Bus rapid transit systems—also known as "busways" in English and 快速公共交通系统 (kuàisù gōnggòngjiāotōng xìtǒng) in Chinese—date back to the 1970s when the first one opened in Curitiba, Brazil. Having won favor among transportation planners for their low cost, high degree of flexibility, and other similar benefits when compared to light rail systems, BRT systems have opened up in numerous cities around the world, each displaying its own characteristics. Although city leaders and the public frequently seem to prefer the more established allure of a subway system, the "BRT is a comparable, more cost-effective and equally elegant solution," according to the New York-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, which, incidentally, ranks Guangzhou's BRT, along with that of Bogota, Colombia, as the gold standard of BRT systems, a model for all others (including those in Europe and the U.S.) to emulate.
Cities across China have been in a sustained transit-project frenzy for years, and alongside the light-rail and bike-sharing projects that are underway in seemingly every major city, quite a few BRTs have cropped up as well. In addition to the aforementioned gold-standard system in Guangzhou, cities including Hefei, Lanzhou, Urumqi, Xiamen, Zhengzhou, Hangzhou, Jinan, Beijing, Chongqing, and Kunming, as well as smaller cities all boast BRT systems either in operation or under construction. Chengdu's elevated-roadway system is modeled after Xiamen's three-line system, which opened in 2008 and is considered China's first elevated BRT system.
Station: North Train Station 火车北站
As close to 12 o'clock as it gets, from here you can head west to access the Chengdu Railway (North) Station as well as the adjacent intercity long-distance bus station and Metro Line 1. Heading east, you can arrive at the Lotus Market (荷花池), the infamous wholesale market of Chengdu, which itself is under renovation, and offers shoppers everything under the clouds, from textiles and home goods to clothes and shoes, decorations to kitchenware, toys and craft supplies. To the south lies the new Wanda Square (万达广场).
Station: Shangmao Dadao 商贸大道
Perhaps the most industrial looking of all the areas the BRT passes, the Shangmao Dadao stop just might make you feel that you have traversed not only space, but time as well and are revisiting a Chengdu at the end of the last millennium. Head west to enter more of the massive northern markets, this time the home appliance, tools, and construction materials wholesalers. In 2015, the transfer station to Metro Line 5 will also be located here. Go south to visit more markets, including those selling (yes, even more) textiles, clothes, ceramics, and other materials.
Station: Southwest Jiaotong University 西南交大
Go north to enter the main gate of the Southwest Jiaotong University campus, or head west to the California Garden Hotel.
Station: Yingmenkou North 营门口北
Somehow the construction of the interchange surpasses the others in height and spectacle as well as potential to completely disorient drivers and passengers. From here, head west for what might be the only restaurant in town worth this much mafan, Tutao Cun (土陶村).
Station: Shuhan Lu North 蜀汉路口北
Go south to Sichuan Women's and Children's Hospital or transfer to Metro Line 2's East Shuhan Road station.
Funan Xinqu 府南新区
Go west to the Jinsha Ruins Museum (金沙遗址博物馆) and south to the Metro supermarket and to enter the north gate of the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (西南财经大学).
Station: Guanghua Dadao 光华大道
Go north for the Renhe Shopping Mall and Metro supermarket (the latter is equidistant from this and the Funan Xinqu stations). Or head south to Carrefour, east to Huanhuaxi Park (浣花溪公园), Dufu's Thatched Cottage (杜甫草堂), and the Re-C Art Space, or west to the south gate of the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics.
Station: Qingshui River 清水河
Go east to enter Huanhuaxi Park, and there's nothing else to say about this station.
Station: Shaoling Lu 少陵路
Go east for the club street where you'll find True Color, Muse, 88, among others nighttime venues, or go west for the tamer Han Bar and the Egret Island residential and shopping/entertainment complex. Go south for Ito Yokado and the Chengdu Harmony Hotel.
Station: Hongpailou West 红牌楼西
Go east for the Holiday Inn Hotel and, in 2015, for the transfer station to Metro Line 3.
Station: Lidu Lu 丽都路
Off the station are the big complex of the Chengdu Media Group and the Huawei Complex. East of here lies the Ibis Hotel and the future transfer point for Metro Line 5.
Station: Zijing Bei Lu 紫荆北路
From here, it's just a hop, skip, and jump away to the Hollywood Square, home to the Zijing Cinema and Munich 1810, or head east to the Yulin Life Square (玉林生活广场) with the Empty Bottle Bar and Music House. Go east for Carrefour and the adjacent A Boluza and Lain Guy, as well as Sabrina's and Peter's Tex-Mex. Go north for Machu Picchu and Mingtang BBQ and west for Little Bar, K Gallery, and A Thousand Plateaus Art Space.
Station: Rennan Flyover人南立交桥东
Go south to change to Metro Line 1 at the Tongzilin station, or swing by the Kempinski Hotel and Paulaner Bräuhaus, Sun Dynasty, Air China Tower, New Hope Tower, Manhattan Phase 1, Regal Master Building, the Thai consulate, Oakwood, the Music Box, Mandarin Club, and Chinese Corner. Need to cool off after that high-speed riding? Take a dip in the Orchard Villas' swimming pool. Go west to the Sultan, Casa Mosaico, Q's Café, Cru Wine Bar, Del Mar, and yet another Peter's Tex-Mex. Head north for the Bookworm, Grandma's Kitchen/Sunflower Cafe, the Shamrock, Tandoor, the Western Tower, and the consulates of Germany, Pakistan, and the United States of America. Or you could grab a bite at perennial favorites Tiantian, Yangyang, or, if you're feeling splurgy, Gingko, and then hop on Metro Line 1 at the Nijiaqiao station (in case you need a quick escape). Alternatively, go east to Casa Mia numero dos.
Station: Kehua Lu 科华路
Go north for Grandma's Kitchen, Jellyfish, The Spot, Café Paname, and other fun in the Blue Caribbean Square, plus Cacaja, and Chengdu laowai classics like two Peter's Tex-Mexes, Sabrina's, Casa Mia—plus Sichuan University and the Lippo Tower (hello, Hooters). Go west to the Wangfujing Shopping Center or south to B&Q, Safari, or the Ibis Hotel. Then hold on because once you pass this area, there's not much sightseeing to be done.
Station: East Lake Park 东湖公园
Go south to the surprisingly-nice-considering-its-surroundings Donghu Park or north to the Wangjiang ("River-Viewing") Pavilion and Bamboo Park.
Station: Chengren Bus Station 成仁公交站
Go north to access the intercity Chengren Bus Station or south to the original Wanda Plaza and all of its treasures, including Ito Yokado.
Station: Longzhou Lu 龙舟路
From here you can alight a number of buses heading out to Sansheng Xiang "Flower Town" (三圣乡).
Lianhua Xiaoqu 莲花小区
These residential-area stations are of little interest unless you live nearby, but in a couple of years it will be a transfer station to Metro Line 6.
Station: Niushikou 牛市口
Transfer to the Metro Line 2 Niushikou Lu station. There's a women and children's center here as well as lots of new real-estate projects under construction. The massive International Commercial Complex is scheduled to open here next year, and its adjacent towers will stand 280 meters tall, serving as a landmark for this area.
Station: Shuangqiaozi South 双桥子南
Go west to Carrefour or east to Tazishan Park (塔子山公园).
Station: Shuanqiaozi North 双桥子北
There's nothing more to add here that hasn't already been said for the Shuangqiaozi South station.
Station: Wannianchang 万年场
Go east to MixC (万象城) or west to Xinhua Park (新华公园).
Station: Wannianchang North 万年场北
Go south to the MixC shopping center or west to Xinhua Park.
Station: Jianshe Nan Lu 建设南路
Go east to the SM Square and the Chengdu East Suburban Memory (formerly known as the Chengdu East Music Park), west to the Sunshine New Life Plaza, and north to the UME Cineplex.
Station: Jianshe Lu 建设路
Go east to the UME Cineplex, west to the University of Electronic Science and Technology (电子科技大学) and Alliance Française, as well as Shahe Park.
Station: Taoqilu 桃蹊路
Go east to access Shahe Park.
Station: Sanyou Lu 三友路
Go east to switch to Metro Line 3 in 2015 or south to the small Sanhe Guqiao Park.
Station: Gaosuntang 高笋塘
Unless you live in one of the many new apartment complexes in this area, the only reason to get off here would be to transfer buses, but seemingly endless kilometers of shopping walls will soon appear in this neighborhood to lure passengers off the bus.