Passengers sit at a safe distance from each other on the customized bus, February 27. (Photo: CGTN)
Special customized bus routes are now up and running in Beijing amid the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. The city's bus authority says Thursday that they are planning to open more such routes to facilitate a safer and more convenient transportation for passengers.
The first such line shuttles between Beijing's Silicon Valley, known as Zhongguancun Science Park in the northwest, and the largest residential area in the city's northeast named Tiantongyuan that reportedly houses over 700,000 people where infection risk still looms.
The service hopes to avoid risks in transfers among subways and bus stations during commuting times.
An official named Hao Xiaobo from Beijing Public Transport Corporation further explained.
"As people are returning to work, we are gradually increasing our transportation capacity. The method today is to meet people's needs and each bus has limitations on passenger numbers, say, only one sitting per row," he said.
Over 1,100 regular bus lines and 150 shuttle bus routes have been running in Beijing amid the epidemic, but the city wants to do more.
Preparation for customized services has been carried out over the past 10 days, like collecting public opinions and setting up station routes based on needs.
So far, over 20,000 people and 300 companies have applied for the service.
"I applied through WeChat and was told my reservation was approved yesterday. That's really convenient. And this is my first day taking the bus," a passenger said.
The alternate bus service also takes strong precautions against the COVID-19.
"Every driver needs to check their body temperature and wear the mask. For every drive, a complete disinfection is a must. Also, ventilation is required," a bus driver said.
On Thursday, 14 such routes have been put into operation one by one. And more are coming.
The passengers will be charged just eight yuan for 20 kilometers and three yuan for every extra five kilometers. And the city's bus authority said there will also be a 50 percent discount in the following one month for locals.
"Although the route also takes me one and a half hours to work, it saves time and effort to transfer and walk relatively more safely. I am really grateful and hope this can continue," a passenger said.
The customized bus service is only one option for passengers during this period. But it's part of the efforts to help people mitigate the risks of the coronavirus infection and gradually get back to normal life.