How Long Is the Average Commute in China?

Many of the country's highways and subway systems first opened in the 1990s. So there have been growing pains for commuters in Chinese cities. In 2014, the average daily one-way commute in the major cities was 90 minutes but quickly dropped to 50 minutes in subsequent years, the same average commute as the UK. Chinese cities and government are working hard to improve the commuting experience as more and more people continue to move to the major cities. The most recent estimate is 70% of the Chinese population live in a major city. How do all these people get to work each day?

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China has the largest cities by population in the world plus the world's largest national population. Many of the country's highways and subway systems first opened in the 1990s. So there have been growing pains for commuters in Chinese cities. In 2014, the average daily one-way commute in the major cities was 90 minutes but quickly dropped to 50 minutes in subsequent years. Chinese cities and government are working hard to improve the commuting experience as more and more people continue to move to the major cities. The most recent estimate is 70% of the Chinese population live in a major city. How do all these people get to work each day?

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Cars & Scooters
There are not a lot of people who own cars in China, compared to other countries but the number is increasing rapidly. Less than 150 million people owned a vehicle in 2013 and now China is close to having the most vehicles in the world with more than 200 million. Adding more than 15 million cars per year to the road is not helping to improve the time it takes to drive to work each day. The government is using techniques like releasing a limited number of license plates and restricting which license plates can drive on which days to reduce the traffic on the road.

Besides cars, lots of people also drive scooters, especially electric scooters. It is the transportation choice for delivery of food and packages, and are sometimes considered a form of pedestrian transportation since they are often found driving on sidewalks. Around subway stations, there are often many scooters parked near the entrances since it's faster to drive a scooter than walk 20-30 minutes to the station. There are even people who wait on scooters at subway stations, offering rides like a taxi.

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Subways & Buses
China continues to break records as its subway systems grow. With the majority of subway lines being built after the year 2000, subways are still a new form of transit in the country but are already the most effective way to beat traffic. Costing an average of 3RMB, the subway can cover more than 30 km in an hour whereas a car might only make it 25 km through the traffic.

In contrast to the subway, buses are one of the oldest forms of transportation in China. While they still get stuck in traffic, they cover the areas that the subways don't and are still a very common form of transportation either on their own or in combination with the subway. Most buses in China cost 1-2 RMB.


This article is part of our new online Chinese course. An efficient way to learn Chinese language for working and living in China.