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China Tackles the Killer Commute


Americans may think they’ve got it bad when it comes to commuting, but China’s got the US beat when it comes to horror commutes. The average American commute takes 25.4 minutes each way, but the average Beijing resident spends 52 minutes heading in to work, with the average commuter in Guangzhou and Shanghai taking only slightly less time out of the day to make their way to and from the office. China, like the US, is finding new ways to cut out the commute, and recently launched a new shuttle service to decrease congestion. China Daily reports:

Beijing is set to get a customized shuttle service from September for which people can make reservations and pay online. The service is aimed at promoting the use of public transport and reducing the number of private cars on Beijing’s roads. Commuters can now log on to, the service operators’ website, to fill out a survey questionnaire about their travel needs, including their home and office addresses and the time of their commute.

More than 14,400 residents have taken part in the survey since July 14, and the operators have set up a fare chart based on the response to the survey, with the cost of using the shuttlebus being no more than 30 percent of the cost of driving a car and about 15 percent of taxifare.

This program might not pan out, and even if it does, China’s megacities will need to do more to address car traffic. China Daily stresses the need for smarter transportation infrastructure—think coordinating traffic lights—but better public transport isn’t the complete solution either. As more and more people continue to crowd China’s cities, the country will need to address the root cause for the traffic: in a less industrial, more information-based economy, why should people need to travel to a centralized office if their work can be done remotely?

Telework policies should be part of any plan to cut down on killer commutes, and China, maybe more than anywhere else on the planet, has a mandate to solve this problem. After all, its air pollution contributes to roughly 1.2 million deaths every year.

[Beijing traffic image courtesy of Hung Chung Chih/]

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