Everyday (Im)mobility -(Not) Getting There -
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People buy and drive cars for a number of reasons to numerous to recite here. In the end, though, everybody who shares the road, no matter their mode of transportation, faces the irony that the motor vehicle, with its promises of convenience, freedom, and most of all, speed, eventually creates mostly the opposite: traffic jams that ensnare road users, slow down most modes of transport, and wreak havoc on public health and well-being.
Let's say you live at Gaosheng Qiao and want to go to the East Music Park, a trip of approximately 10 kilometers. Google Maps suggests four different bus routes, all of which take 90 to 100 minutes and involve one transfer. It estimates approximately 120 minutes to walk the route. Not that running is usually a particularly convenient mode of transportation, but to offer a frame of reference, I'd like to point out that world-class runners routinely run 10-kilometer races in 30 minutes; plenty of average people can run that distance in 60 minutes with some practice.
You fare a little better (at least in theory) with Baidu Map, which suggests taking one bus for 37 minutes and walking the last kilometer, for a total-60-minute trip. It also helpfully estimates taxi fare, at RMB24 or 27 (day or night). It also offers several other suggestions, each with less walking and one bus transfer.
Both Google and Baidu estimate driving time for this route to be under 40 minutes. Several considerations are missing, however: Much of the First Ring Road has a dedicated bus lane, so while in this case bus times should be fairly accurate, the driving time factors an apparent "average" traffic situation. Peak-time travel will likely be slower. And, of course, if you're planning to spend those 40 minutes in a taxi, you'll need to factor in the time it will take to find a taxi driver who doesn't already have a passenger and is willing to take you.
Naturally, taking the subway offers an alternative to road congestion—if you don't mind submerging yourself under the ground and submitting your body and your bags to security checks, and, of course, if your beginning and end points happen to be somewhere on Line 1, and you happen to be traveling during operating hours. Bicycles and scooters offer the ultimate freedom from the imprisonment of traffic jams, but then again, some people prefer not to ride in inclement weather, or in the dark, or with heavy or bulky cargo, or particularly long distances, when the likelihood of arriving at the destination in less-than-pristine condition increases. And the thought of battling with aggressive drivers is enough to keep some cyclists off their saddles.
In February 2012, the Chengdu City Committee on Traffic and Transit rolled out its "half-hour, half-hour, half-hour" plan, which aims, unfortunately, not to ensure that two points within the Second Ring Road can be reached within half an hour, but to create three concentric rings around the city center (at the county, town, and village level), each taking 30 minutes to traverse. To this end, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system with an integrated Park-and-Ride system was announced in 2012. One BRT line was completed and put into operation in mid-2013, but has not been fully integrated into other transit options and average commuting speed has not increased either.
This article was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 52.