Sunday, February 1, 2009
Taking the High Road
Near our hotel and along the city's main thoroughfare there's a raised highway that is lit up at night.
At first we thought it was an inner-city commuter train and wanted to ride on it. We later realized it was a road -- just for buses.
It's called BRT -- Bus Rapid Transit and the service was only started in September last year.
The blue buses go to three different destinations, but since most of the path goes in a straight line, the buses stop at almost the same stations.
Bus fare is relatively cheap at 0.5RMB ($0.07), as buses street level are 1RMB. Once you pay the fare you're given a blue plastic chip and beeped through the turnstile.
At each station, an attendant stands there, making sure passengers don't walk onto the road (even though it's cordoned off) and they board the bus safely. How difficult is that?
The buses themselves are very clean and quiet and come quite frequently. My friend joked that perhaps bus drivers who did a good job were promoted to driving these kinds of buses, as our driver had a plant next to him and cushy seat.
However it isn't much of a challenge driving these buses, with no cars or pedestrians to watch out for.
One worries drivers could fall asleep at the wheel...
For a long time Fujian Province was neglected by Beijing because it was geographically close to Taiwan.
Officials concerned about possible war with the "renegade province" didn't want to invest too much money in Fujian.
But these days many of the businesses and investment come from Taiwan, making the economic links between them inextricable.
So it's in the last few years that the government has thrown more money into Xiamen and there are many construction projects around the city.
And the BRT is probably one of those infrastructure projects that had good intentions, but they didn't have enough foresight (or money) to go all the way and move the city forward in developing a more modern and environmentally friendly one.
Why have diesel-powered buses when an electric-powered train system would be better?
It's a half-step forward for a city that could leap forward with much potential.