Beijing launches air-conditioned commuter shuttle buses with reserved seats

White-collar workers given option of paying more for reserved seat in congested capital

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 July, 2013, 4:19am

Beijing residents, accustomed to being squashed like sardines in rush-hour public transport, will be guaranteed a seat on customised buses that will hit the capital city's streets in September.

Commuters will be able to reserve seats and buy tickets online, according to the state-owned bus operator in the city.

The air-conditioned buses will cost more but will be affordable for white-collar workers, Beijing Public Transport Holdings said on its website.

A similar service, launched in 2011, was cancelled. Commuters could only board buses from two locations and the routes were fixed by the authority, resulting in a lacklustre reception.

"This business shuttle service is aimed at … white-collar workers," an officer with the municipal transport bureau told Xinhua.

The operator said on its website that the service was aimed at providing a more environmentally friendly and comfortable option for commuters.

The news took many internet users by surprise, with one writing on his blog: "Are you sure we can all get a seat? That will need a lot of buses. But if the fare is cheaper than driving my own car, it will be worth it."

Beijing has been trying to ease the city's notorious traffic congestion, imposing policies such as limiting car sales and restricting the number of vehicle registrations.

The mainland hopes to make public transport dominant in urban areas and boost the use of electric vehicles such as buses and trams, in addition to trains, according to the 2011 five-year-plan by the State Council.

Initiatives such as increasing the use of vehicle rentals and better taxi-booking facilities will be supported.

Until early 2011, the government actively encouraged car ownership. The number of private passenger vehicles stood at 62.4 million at the end of 2011, a sevenfold increase on the 8.45 million at the end of 2003, according to National Bureau of Statistics data.

The number of cars may surpass 200 million by 2020, Xinhua reported last year.