At first I was apprehensive to take the Beijing subway, despite its popularity. What if I get lost? What if I get robbed? How am I supposed to find the station if it’s under ground!? In the U.S. when I think of subways I think of dirty cars, drunk creeps and bums outside the station. I should’ve known the Beijing subway would be anything but.
My co-worker Liu showed me where the station is located. As soon as you enter the subway your bags are screened for security purposes. Next you purchase a ticket. For only 2 RMB, or 29 cents, you get a one-way pass anywhere the subway travels. Beijing’s subway has ten different lines. These lines take you to and from the airport, train stations, bars, shopping malls, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Silk Road, the Beijing Zoo, the Beijing Aquarium, all throughout Beijing. Light-up-maps in the cars let passengers know what stop is ahead. Stops are announced in Chinese and English. I didn’t need to worry about getting lost. Even if I missed my stop, I could always get off and catch another train. The subway comes literally every three to five minutes, so you don’t have to worry about being at the station “on time.”
I couldn’t believe how clean the cars are kept. With millions of subway passengers each day, I expected the cars to be dirty. This is not the case. Each car has a worker to maintain order, cleanliness and safety for all passengers on board. Even at night I felt safe traveling by subway.
All this public transportation got me thinking. Why does Seattle not have a similar transportation system? According to the state Office of Financial Management, as of April 1, 2009 Seattle had an estimated 602,000 residents. This is a 6.9 percent increase from the 2000 census. The 2000 census also reported Seattle, and it’s metropolitan areas, had almost 2.5 million residents. This is in 2000!
Now consider this. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) currently has nine construction projects underway on Interstate-405. The total cost for these projects is estimated to be over $1.48 billion. WSDOT (our tax dollars) spent $960k to replace six exit ramps on I-405. WSDOT also spent $1.2M to add four new exits to I-405. Want to spend more? Yep, they did. For another $650K taxpayers got closed-circuit television between Bellevue Way and I-405, an exit on north bound SR 169 and another exit on west bound SR 908. We’re also paying $90K for personalized public email updates regarding construction. This entire construction plan is expected to take 10 years. Did I mention this is only I-405? Let’s look at other construction costs. To replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct and expand roadways, WSDOT plans to spend $2.39 billion. WSDOT also plans to build another floating bridge on SR 250 costing $4.65B. Currently they have $1.994B funded. Where is the remaining $2.356B going to come from? (cough, cough, tax us, cough)
I’m sure some construction improvements are necessary, but why is mass transportation not being considered? If we are increasing traffic lanes, with construction end dates of 2020 and an increasing urban population, we will just have more lanes of stopped traffic. This will not solve the problem of congestion. Seattle is a metropolitan area with numerous suburbs. Why not mimic the Beijing subway system on a smaller scale? We could have a subway line that runs through downtown Seattle, from Pioneer Square to Belltown and Fremont. We could have additional lines that take passengers to Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, the U District and other high traffic areas. We need to build our transportation for the future, not play catch-up to present transportation problems.
Considering Seattle’s efforts to go green, I am disappointed in their public transportation. Effective mass transportation has numerous benefits. In my opinion these benefits far outweigh the initial costs. America needs to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, as well as preserve our planet and create jobs. Effective and affordable mass transportation is the answer.
Taking the Beijing subway I felt a sense of freedom. I could travel anywhere in Beijing. My mode of transportation is environmentally friendly, easily accessible and affordable. I am a city girl.
To see how your tax dollars are being spent, please visit: