Shanghai's transport authority has raised metro fares in order to encourage more people to take buses to relieve the strain on underground trains.
Fares for the shortest ride, for example, have gone up from 2 yuan (25 US cents) to 3 yuan (US$0.37) across the city's three subway lines.
Fares in Shanghai are set by distance travelled. The lowest fare is for the first 6 kilometres, and prices go up by 1 yuan for each additional 10 kilometres after that.
For trips longer than 28 kilometres, prices have either remained the same or dropped 1 to 2 yuan (12-24 US cents).
The price changes are meant to encourage more people to take the bus, particularly during rush hour, according to a statement released by the Information Office of the Shanghai municipal government.
The city's subways are often overcrowded and operate beyond their capacity. Almost 1.3 million people used the city's three subway lines every day in 2004. During rush hour, capacity hit almost 105 per cent.
The number of riders grew even more in 2005, with up to 1.9 million people using the subway during the weekends, according to the Metro Operation Department of Shengtong Metro Co, which operates the subway lines.
About 30 per cent of rush-hour subway riders and 38 per cent of the total ridership use the subways for short trips. The price hike is targeted for this particular group.
Long distance passengers, however, will benefit from a new discount scheme that will be launched in November. Commuters who spend more than 70 yuan (US$8.6) in a month will get a 10 per cent discount for any rides after that.
Although Shanghai's transport authority increased the number of buses on the roads to handle any sudden onslaught of new passengers, the metro fare increase seems to have had little effect.
No sudden rise in bus passengers was reported yesterday.
Some subway riders did not seem put off by the hike.
"Even if ticket prices have been raised by 2 yuan or 3 yuan, I would still take the subway first," said high school student Gao Jie.
Another rider said the price increase was only slight.
"It is not a big deal to pay 1 yuan more on the ticket," said architect Jiang Zhongmin. "But if the price had doubled, I would surely switch to the bus."
(China Daily September 16, 2005)