Monday, August 6, 2007

Commuter Chaos

The sky has been trying hard to rain these past few days, looking overcast, cool and misty. Or is it pollution?

And finally late this afternoon, thunder boomed and lightning struck and soon afterwards it started raining. And then raining harder and harder.

It was a welcome relief, like a pregnant woman finally able to give birth.

But then the commute was hell.

My colleague and I needed to get to Haidian district, the west side of the city for an Olympics press conference welcoming 10 families who won a contest to visit Beijing. Five were from overseas, five from within China.

We hoped to get to the hotel at 7pm so we left at 6:20pm.

Although the rain had already stopped, traffic inched along because many of the roads were flooded. Our taxi driver tried to get us through any possible routes but they were either jammed or so packed that at one point we had to U-turn and go back the original street we were on.

It was absolutely ridiculous.

As I have mentioned before, either the city has a badly managed drainage system or there is no existing drainage system, creating lakes in the middle of the road and thus preventing vehicles from crossing.

And all the while my colleague kept whining even though I kept telling her it was no use.

In the end we finally arrived at 8:15pm, almost two hours later.

Luckily the event only started 15 minutes beforehand, half an hour later than scheduled.

But if this is the kind of situation the city faces next year, then what? How will they manage tens of thousands of visitors in Beijing when the streets are flooded and people are trying to get from one venue to another, let alone commuters who just want to get home?

Drainage is something Beijing Olympic officials may have neglected to put on their to-do list. They're making the city as green as possible planting lots of trees and reclaiming water from sewage treatment plants. They're building amazing looking venues and training an army of volunteers to look after visitors. But what about proper drainage for the roads so that people can get around without traffic chaos? Even if they do take one million vehicles off the road, that still doesn't help the flooding situation.

It's a problem that urgently needs to be addressed now.

There's still time...

1 comment:

ks said...

a chinese proverb says 'the sky has unpredictable wind and cloud, people have sudden fortune and misfortune'. in an old city like beijing the sewage system needs to be upgraded every now and then in a systematic fashion. this takes time and planning. it is a job for the city engineers. they should be more diligent in this respect. even in new york yesterday there was a sudden thunderstorm the subway and some streets were also flooded causing traffic chaos too.