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New Travel System for 'Smart' Beijingers
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However, once a long standing habit has been formed it can be a little hard to break!

The scenes were a little bit chaotic at some bus stops during the rush hour periods yesterday as Beijing formally scrapped its decades-old paper monthly passes for public transport and replaced them with an automatic fare collection (AFC) system.

Nearly 1.5 million monthly bus pass users and 200,000 metro travelers must now use palm-sized 'smart' cards to pay for their city traveling. But passengers without the new 'smart' cards will not be turned away and be able to buy a traditional paper ticket for a period of time. 

Passengers used to be allowed to enter by any door of a bus but now they're required to board  through the front door (or the middle one on buses with three doors) because that's where the AFC machines are installed. They must exit using the back door or the front and back doors of a three-door bus.

And on the first day it was obvious that some commuters of the city with more than 14 million people were finding it difficult to get used to the new arrangements which had arrived overnight.

"I agree it's convenient to use a card," said Zhao Tianbao, 62, a local resident on a No 62 bus, "but absolutely not at rush hour."

Zhao cited the No 300 bus, which circles the Third Ring Road as an example, "Though the bus is very big at rush hour it's extremely difficult to get on it as people now just swarm to enter through the front door."

Liang Yiran and Li Shanshan, both 17-year-old students, said they were late for school today because of the crowded conditions in the morning. "I wonder why they can't install machines at both doors," Liang said.

Cai Fen, the No 62 bus conductor, which operates between Jiangzhuanghu and the Yonghegong metro station, said that the change yesterday did not save her any work.

"I have to keep reminding people to enter from the front door at each stop and keep a close eye on those who use the card to ensure they've used it correctly," she said. "But that's understandable," Cai said. "After all it's the first day."

More than 1,100 buses were added to the 84 busiest routes of the city to alleviate the pressure during the rush hours, the Xinhua News Agency quoted Li Xiaosong, deputy director of the Beijing Transportation Commission, as saying.

Foreseeing the possible confusion the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communication arranged for 4,000 'order maintainers' to assist at the city's most crowded bus stops. As an added precaution railings were erected at most stops to ensure organized queuing by passengers.

(China Daily May 11, 2006)

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