New urbanist gripes for Tianjin oriented teens

2018-06-06 09:48:29
Summary:For some, transit is a simple method from point A to point B It means waking up early for work, crawling out

For some, transit is a simple method from point A to point B. It means waking up early for work, crawling out of bed and coming just far enough out of your slumber to walk onto the bus or subway like a zombie, crammed against the masses of other sleep-deprived people, looking down at their phones to break the monotony or awkwardness of public transit. These people live and breathe to get out of the subway, to make it off the hot bus with the guy who keeps kicking the back of your seat; for others, we live and breathe for transit. For 70,000 members of the online community, "New Urbanist Memes for Transit Oriented Teens", transit is the most anticipated moment of the day. NUMTOTs wasn't my first exposure to transit obsession though, it was actually an awkward preteen here in Tianjin. Being a friend of his family, I would often meet with him a couple times a week to talk, letting him practice his English but the conversations rarely diverted from subways, trains, airplanes, and busses. People like that kid would fit perfectly into the NUMTOTs community.

Transit is something which a lot of us take for granted living in China, back in my own hometown of Phoenix, Arizona we have one short light-rail line, spanning about 10 stations. It runs from the eastern suburbs into the western portion of the city, currently ending up at the Metrocenter Mall which is on its last legs and close to demolition. Besides a lackluster transit system, the busses in Phoenix often have 30 minute wait times and smell like restrooms. If people aren't trying to sell illicit substances to you at a Phoenix bus station, they're trying to sell you some garbage mixtape. America's main train system, Amtrak, is an absolute joke. Getting across my hometown absolutely requires owning a car unless you want to spend hours on public transport. Coming to China was a wake-up call to how amazing public transport can be. Waiting 3-6 minutes in a climate-controlled subway station in a city with 113 subway stops? Yes, please. Multiple busses that show up between 5-10 minutes and don't smell like a neglected gas station restroom? Lord, yes. High-Speed Trains (Speedybois) zipping across the country, thrusting passengers along at a cool 250 kilometers per hour, connecting the whole of the country without having to rely on airplanes? More of that, please.

With the latest Line 6 opened and new lines on the way, there a hope that people will be waned out of constantly using cars, opening up those streets for more busses. That's the NUMTOTs dream, at least. But not every dream is perfect. Like there's a silver-lining in every cloud, inversely, there are also some turds in the punch bowl. Traveling to Korea, Japan even Beijing makes one notice a few inadequacies with Tianjin transportation, though many of these are universal issues. Like how some foreigners have a pastime of constantly bickering about how China makes their life difficult in small ways (the Binhai International Airport is just a straight shoot down Line 2, by the way), even a Transit Orientated "Teen" like myself has a few gripes about public transport. So here are a few systemic issues worth noting as long as a few social infractions which you may be inadvertently committing yourself while on the metro or bus. These results have been sourced from popular sentiments on NUMTOTs threads.

Problem people:

1. The Snorlax

In the old Nintendo Pokemon games, there was a rotund, massive, 1-ton creature who would block the player's progression along Route 12 and Route 16. The creature couldn't be budged or awakened from its slumber without the use of a special flute, much like people who block escalators, block security checks or guard the doors into and out of the subway car. Luckily for us, humans don't weigh about the same as fully grown brown bears and sometimes just need to be physically guided out of the way. If you know you're queuing for the bus, why not prepare your card or fare ahead of time so that people aren't forced to wait for you blocking the entrance?

2. The DJ

Music tastes vary wildly from person-to-person and while you may be an aspiring Sound Cloud rapper yourself, no one wants to hear your mixtape on the metro. As much as we all love hearing blaring soap operas, it's best to keep it to yourself. Miniso sells decent headphones for about 20rmb.

3. The Town Crier

Life doesn't stop for transit, sometimes you get a call that you can't refuse and with all the whistling air, jostling of the subway and aspiring DJs, it can be difficult to have a conversation. If you must though, at least try to cut it short. There's nothing worse than listening to someone yell the same point over and over again on the phone, "THE DOCTOR, yes, call THE DOCTOR! You need to set up an appointment with the doctor, have you set up an appointment with the doctor yet? Yes, that doctor, not the other one. The one at the hospital, the doctor. Set up an appointment with them. Have you already done that yet?! Call the doctor." The entire train doesn't need to hear about how much of an "amazing" entrepreneur you are.

4. The Offensive Lineman

Kind of the opposite of The Snorlax, these are the people who wait right in the middle lane of the subway exit. You know, the middle part with the lines indicating very clearly not to stand there. As soon as those doors open, they have got to be the first people on the cart, even before anyone can get off. A good defense is a good offense, anyone standing in the middle row and trying to force themselves on before people disembark deserves a hard elbow to the abdomen.

Transit Problems:

1. Bus bunching

So you're waiting for bus 842 and what seems like about 1 million bus 50's pass by the station. Frustrating, right? Not only that, but two bus 842's show up about the same time after a long wait, so you know the first bus will be incredibly crowded whereas the second bus won't be. The phenomena are called "Bus Bunching", caused by there being a lack of slack time scheduled into routes, also because people (looking at you people who don't prepare your fare ahead of time) are slow to board buses. The phenomena are plainly shown at

2. Bus unreliability

Subways are generally a reliable form of transit, not much will stop a speedy train barrelling through an empty tunnel but busses are unfortunately subject to many traffic conditions. Relying on buses was almost impossible until the arrival of the app Che Lai Le which tracked bus times but unfortunately, the app left us as quickly as it came, meaning that it's impossible to check on incoming buses before heading to the bus stop. Like before the arrival of Che Lai Le, we're now left in the dark.

3. Long transfers on metro

For the most part, China exceeds with it's short transfers between subway stations, since lines have been planned well in advance. That doesn't stop cities with\ more extensive subway systems like Beijing or Shanghai from having some arduous treks between stations, sometimes ranging between 5-10 minutes of walking.

4. Lack of climate control

Oh boy, your bus just arrived and look at that, it's only 1.5rmb per ride! What luck, right? Absolutely not, especially during the summertime. While a slighter cheaper bus ride may be appealing, keep in mind that these cheaper buses do not offer climate control. This may not be a problem during a breezy Spring day but at the height of summer, crammed in like sardines the sweaty climate can be off-putting.

Perhaps the biggest gripe, despite everything, are people who don't enjoy the versatility and convenience of public transport. It's a blessing to have a robust structure for walkability and public transport. Each individual owning and operating a car at all times just makes the traffic worse for everyone on buses. So get out there to your bus station early until Che Lai Le works again, prepare your fares and thank your drivers because public transport is the backbone holding Tianjin together.

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