I take the bus to work every morning. It’s been six months of daily bus rides, and they have become a part of my daily routine. Still, it’s amazing to think what an overwhelming experience a simple bus ride used to be.
Buses are everywhere in Shanghai, and by virtue of their size, they act with little regard for pedestrian or motorist life. You’ll often see them turn on a red light, which, given their size, creates an instant spectacular mess. As for their driving skills, well; I used to complain about Montreal bus drivers, but man, they’re porcelain delivery truck drivers compared to Shanghai. Just holding on to the bar for two stops used to give me sore muscles from the constant stopping and going.
It goes without saying that Chinese buses have a tendency to be overpacked with people at rush hour. There are two bus lines that get me to work in the morning. Line 45 tends to be very crowded and at the time I get in to work, I have to stand for 15 minutes. Line 824 (pictured above) is slightly more pricey over long distances, but costs exactly the same for me, and always has sitting space. Naturally, I try to take the 824 whenever possible. It’s cheap, too: a bus ride costs 2 RMB (25 cents), and if there are no seats available, it costs only 1 RMB!
Many buses now have magnetic card readers to pay for the fare, which means you get to use a single card for bus, taxi, boat, train and subway. Fancier buses, however, such as the 824, employ a woman to sell tickets. In the picture above, you can see her at the right. She sits by the door, sells tickets, and announces stops (even though a speaker system annonces it too). Oh, she also waves a small flag outside her window whenever the bus is about to stop, to warn bicycles not to drive between the curb and the bus on penalty of being squashed. That’s China for you!