Podcast: Story in the Story (4/24/2019 Wed.)
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From the People's Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story.

In Beijing, the preferred form of public transport these days is by bus, especially during peak hours. 

As a giant public bus service provider, the Beijing Public Transport Corporation is constantly trying to improve the travelling experiences of passengers by offering a series of custom-made services, in addition to adopting advanced technology. 

Public bus services in Beijing are some of the most extensive, widely used and affordable form of public transport in the center and outskirts of Beijing. There are nearly 1300 bus routes in the city, with a fleet of over 30,000 vehicles. In 2018, more than 3 billion individual journeys were made across the transport network. 

Besides daily transport services, commuters in Beijing nowadays are able to enjoy a series of custom-made services after the corporation conducted research into their needs. 

Today's Story in the Story looks at the technology being used to make commuting around Beijing by bus a custom-made service for passengers.


People are queuing at a bus station in Beijing. (Photo: from IC)

One of the many positives of commuting by bus is that it helps reduce traffic congestion in one of the world’s busiest cities. 

Ji Xinrong is vice manager of the Transport Network Department with Beijing Public Transport Corporation. He says there are other stimuli that can help it flourish. 

"When we design a custom-made service, we also need to consider the current city planning policy and the changing commuting habits of younger generations. They're all important factors shaping our management system and services,” said Ji. 

“Nowadays, we are facing a new phenomenon, which is that the number of our passengers is slightly decreasing because they have more choices, like the subway, hailing a cab and bike-sharing. This is a normal and inevitable trend, but it means we have to quickly respond and create innovative services." 

Since last year, the latest customized service has operated at three main railway stations in Beijing. It takes passengers from the railway station to anywhere within the fifth ring road. It's the first time that individual services for passengers have been arranged. 

After installing an app on your smartphone and placing an order online, the cloud computer will immediately plan a specific line to take at least three passengers heading in the same direction. This service is similar to ride-sharing, but more economical and safer. 

Wu Tianzhen is a director with the company’s Transport Network and says they hope to provide a door-to-door bus service that can take passengers to their designated destinations, like taxis do. 

"Since each bus is shared by at least three passengers, it's much cheaper than a taxi and more eco-friendly. We created an intelligent system that can collect orders online and quickly react to put passengers into one car according to their destination and departure time," said Wu. 

And passengers seem to like it. 

"I often take the bus to work,” said one commuter. “The bus station is very close to my home, and after I get off the bus, it only takes me about five minutes to walk to my workplace. So, it is quite convenient."


The customized line to children's hospital in Ritan Road has become one of the popular lines since parents no longer need to carry their ill children to go to the hospital on foot. (Photo: courtesy of the Beijing Public Transport Corporation) 

Another prevalent customized service is a line to the children's hospital in Ritan North Road in the Chaoyang District. It's a loop line connecting two nearby subway stations and the hospital. 

It provides a convenient ride since there are no existing bus lines in the neighborhood. The roads don't allow normal-sized buses to drive through because they're too narrow. 

A fleet of small, yellow buses, about twenty feet in length, are often seen travelling back and forth between each stop. Appreciative passengers have affectionately nicknamed them "Bumblebee". 

To provide efficient and safe services, the company has used communication technology to build an intelligent bus control system. It is used to track buses, collect data and effectively respond to emergencies on the road. 

"It is part of our plan to develop smart public transport. It helps us monitor public bus services constantly in many ways, such as observing the time schedule between arriving and departing buses at stations,” explained Xu Zhengxiang, general manager of the corporation’s Strategy and Reform Development department. 

“It also illustrates real-time road conditions and traffic alerts, such as construction, vehicle collisions/breakdowns and faulty traffic signals. Therefore, we can plan accordingly to provide efficient and prompt services." 

The Beijing Public Transport Corporation has also adopted new energy vehicles. In March this year, the company added about 2800 new energy vehicles to its fleet. Currently, nearly 94 percent of its buses are green energy vehicles, which have a less harmful impact on the environment. 

"Certainly, our main incentive is to deliver a better experience for our drivers and passengers," said Xu. “We've also been making huge efforts to develop greener energy to protect the environment.” 

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Brian Lowe, Lance Crayon, and Chelle Wenqian Zeng. Music by: bensound.com. Text from China Plus.)