Commuting efficiency in urban Beijing placed under scrutiny

By Du Juan | China Daily | Updated: 2022-07-28 07:09
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Commuters living in areas of Hebei neighboring Beijing set off to work in the city early in the morning. [Photo by Wu Xiaohui/China Daily]

There are 16 districts in the capital, along with the Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area in the southeast of the city.

In inner districts such as Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chaoyang, Haidian, Shijingshan and Fengtai, people usually commute to workplaces throughout the city. However, in outer suburban districts such as Miyun, Huairou, Pinggu, Yanqing and Mentougou, most residents work locally due to the distance from central Beijing.

Residents in Fangshan district, which is farther southwest of central areas than Fengtai, and those in the western district of Shijingshan go to work the earliest, mainly before 7:30 am. Most of them have to commute to jobs in other districts, where there is more employment.

People living near the southwestern Third Ring Road and Fourth Ring Road mainly start commuting from 7:30 am.

Residents living in northeastern areas, including Wangjing in Chaoyang, and also in the Central Business District, or CBD, where many companies are located, start going to work at 8 am. Most of them don't have to travel to other districts, which saves a considerable amount of time on commuting.

Cheng Han, a 28-year-old white-collar worker at a car company, lives in an apartment near his office in the CBD, even though the rent takes a large part of his salary.

"I cannot bear commuting for more than two hours every day, which I have tried, but it was terrible," he said. "I had no time to relax or get together with my friends after work. As my life just comprised work, commuting and sleeping, I decided to rent an apartment near my workplace."

Many people, especially the younger generation, think the same way as Cheng. As a result, the rental market in popular areas such as the CBD and Wangjing has matured. These areas "wake up" and "stay up" late, attracting young people with their vibrant commercial atmospheres and large populations.

Due to its convenient traffic system, people working in the CBD, where there are some 370,000 jobs, spend 50 minutes on average commuting each day-less time than in Shangdi area, where there are some 170,000 jobs.

More than 60 percent of those working in Shangdi spend more than one hour on a single-trip journey, and they have to wake up earlier than many others in the city to go to work.

Lei Fangshu, senior engineer at the Beijing Transport Institute, said, "The city's morning peak starts at a different time compared with other regions, and we refer to it as an urban 'wake-up call'."

The evening commuting peak in Beijing lasts longer than that in the morning, due to employees' different hours.

In addition, many people work overtime, so the evening peak lasts longer than elsewhere, with the busiest time being from 5 pm to 6 pm.

However, the evening peak is more congested than that in the morning because of factors such as shopping and leisure activities, which add to traffic jams, Lei said.

He suggested that to avoid congestion, commuters should take public transportation and try their best to avoid the morning and evening peak times for commuting on weekdays.

Residents living near the Fifth Ring Road and the Sixth Ring Road in Beijing form the majority of "super commuters", especially those in Tongzhou and Daxing districts.

Those facing even longer commuting times live outside of Beijing in three counties-Xianghe, Dachang and Sanhe-and in areas of Hebei province neighboring the capital.

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