Headlines in Friday's Chinese newspapers make it official: The Beijing Subway network will switch to distance-based pricing at an unspecified point in the second half of this year.

No indication was given as to what the price increase would be, but city planning officials seem committed to basing the fare on some interpretation of "international standards" in which approximately 10% of an urban dweller's income typically goes towards commuting. We extrapolated that to hint that fares could rise to somewhere around an average of RMB 25 per day (round trip) for an average Beijing commuter, which could mean an increase of about 600 percent for people traveling the farthest.

Planners also hinted that they would develop weekly, monthly and seasonal discount passes to reduce the cost burden on daily commuters. This will be a blessing given that Beijing is one of the few major subway networks that lacks any sort of time-based discount pass.

The announcement clarifies a discussion point that has been a hot topic since late last year when the goverment first began hinting the that a fare increase was in the works due to the estimated RMB 18 billion in annual subsidies the city is providing the network. At first city officials were considering five different pricing systems, but this morning's announcement indicates that the distance pricing is the way forward.

Officials also indicated that bus fares many currently at RMB 1 per trip would rise at the same time. No indication of future pricing for buses was given, either.

In related news, the first section of Line 14 is due to open at the end of December. This long-awaited line will connect a previously neglected northeastern corner of Chaoyang district, tying the eastern portion of the CBD northwards towards Shunyi. This phase will finally put Chaoyang Park onto the subway network, as well as the 798 area, with stops right outside the Indigo Mall, and connections to current Line 15 at Wangjing Station and Line 6 at Jintai Lu.

Images: Michael Wester, Wikipedia

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