Few cities in the world have taken action to upgrade and transform their public transportation systems in the manner of Beijing, but what visitors to Beijing will see in 2008, while a vast improvement over the past with the additions of Beijing Subway lines Nos. 5, 10 and the Olympic Branch line and the Airport Line that connects Central Beijing to the Beijing Capital International Airport at the Dongzhimen Station and Terminal 3 at the airport, is just the beginning phase of a subway/light-rail network that will reach every populated corner of the municipality and that will connect with airport, train and bus stations with even wider transportation networks and still more travel options.
Visitors can easily use the subway by purchasing magnetic “tickets” at subway stations; long-stay visitors should consider purchasing an yikatong card that allows entry to the subway with just a swipe. Just 2 yuan will take you to any place within Beijing where the rail networks run; since 2007, there are no transfer fees.
While the subway is convenient, it can get crowded, especially on holidays and during rush hours, and while the system is more accessible than ever and people will yield to the elderly and people with a disability, it is better avoided by those who have difficulty climbing stairs or who have difficulties coping with crowded conditions. Take a taxi or bus instead.
When waiting on a train, stand on the oblique arrows on the floor that point toward the rail line; when train doors open, wait for a moment for people to exit the train, but go ahead and get on the train when possible to do so; the trains run faster these days and do not tarry at subway stops. Do not stick your hand or an object like an umbrella in the door to get it to reopen: it won’t. When on a crowded train, be sure to know when you are approaching your stop and begin working your way toward the door. People will let you by when you say “xia che,” unless they, too, intend to disembark at your station.
If you have any problem whatsoever, contact the subway staff on the station platform. All have been trained to assist travellers: they have “seen it all” and know what to do.
Existing plans call for 19 lines and 561 km of tracks in operation by 2015. The Chinese government's ¥4 trillion economic stimulus package has further accelerated the timetable for subway construction. In addition to 7 lines already under construction, work is set to begin on 6 new lines in 2009, and the entire network will double in size to 420 km by 2012.
Beijing's subway lines generally follow the checkerboard layout of the city. Most lines run parallel or perpendicular to each other and intersect at right angles.
Line 1, a straight east-west line underneath Chang'an Avenue, which bisects the city through Tiananmen Square. Line 1 connects major commercial centres, Xidan, Wangfujing, Dongdan and the Beijing CBD.
Line 2, a rectangular loop line, traces the Ming-era city wall that once surrounded the inner city, and stops at 11 of the wall's former gates (ending in men), now busy intersections, as well as the Beijing Railway Station.
Line 5, a straight north-south line just east of the city centre. It passes the Temple of Earth, Lama Temple and the Temple of Heaven.
Line 10, a "┐"-shaped route to the north and east of Line 2. It follows the Yuan-era city wall in the north, passing just south of the Olympic Green. At the Sanyuanqiao, northeast of the city, Line 10 turns straight south and follows the eastern 3rd Ring Road through the embassy district and Beijing CBD.
Olympic Branch Line (Line 8 Phase I) extends north off Line 10 with three stops in the Olympic Green.
Line 13, arcs across suburbs north of the city and channels commuters to Xizhimen and Dongzhimen, at the northwest and northeast corners of Line 2.
Line Batong, extends Line 1 eastward from Sihui to suburban Tongzhou District.
The Airport Line, connects the Beijing Capital International Airport, 27 km northeast of the city, with Line 10 at Sanyuanqiao and Lines 2 and 13 at Dongzhimen.