Photo Essay: An Entire Day on the Beijing Subway

A photo essay at Vice by Oscar Holland and Lukas von Rantzau shows an entire day on Line 2 of Beijing’s subway, from the first train to the last:

5:05 AM – The doors to the first train open. “Welcome to Subway Line Teeooo” declares the automated announcer in a Chinese/American/robot accent that, over the course of the next 24 hours, will come to be my disembodied nemesis.

[…] 6:50 AM – The car begins to fill with a commuter crowd sporting all of the hallmarks of consumer capitalism, their eyes glued to smartphones and tablets. But this is no replica of a Western scene. The Chinese word for suit (xi fu) literally translates as “west clothes” and I do not see any. Instead, most men wear polo shirts and the women are in flowing dresses or pleated skirts.

[…] 8:20 AM – This is far from the pandemonium I had expected. While there is a certain chaos in the custom of entering the car before allowing others to exit, the system efficiently absorbs the crush. No “pushers” are hired to cram people on (as happens in Tokyo), no one is left waiting on platforms (as happens in London), and trains never stop in the tunnels (as happens in almost every other major city). The Beijing subway is a perfectly-oiled machine. [Source]

See the perfectly-oiled machine in motion on Line 13, via Beijing Cream:


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