If you want to get a taxi you need to stand on any street and just start waving frantically. Lin’an, small city though it is, has plenty of taxis. The problem is finding one that will actually take you where you want to go.
You see, taxi’s here are more of a bus service, picking up and dropping off passengers, as many as four people at a time, all going to different locations. They tend to not want to veer to far away from whatever crazy route they already have planned in their heads, so if they’re not going your way, you’re out of luck. (It is very rare to find an empty taxi. All of them have at least one passenger, if not 3, already in them)
And the worst part is, they rip you off for the privilege. I have never seen a taxi actually use their meter. Instead, it’s one price for a single passenger going to one place, another if there are multiple people. For instance from pretty much anywhere in town to my school is 10 rmb for one person, or 5 rmb each if there are several people in the party. If I am with 3 friends, then the driver really makes out, pulling in 20 rmb for one ride.
And the taxis are nothing to look at. Battered, bright green little Kia’s, they have broken mirrors, trunks that won’t open, trunks that won’t shut, and doors that are alarmingly difficult to close at time.
Or should I saw were nothing to look at. That’s right, because last week they rolled out the new fleet of shiny, multi-colored brand new Kia taxis with fancy light up roof-ads and everything. Just like a big city.
Of course, never one to miss a beat, the rides themselves have gone up. I’ve heard that what used to be 5rmb is now 7, but I have yet to ride these new chariots and haven’t experienced it for myself.
But as soon as I saw the new taxis, I immediately thought one thing, “They should have used that money to invest in new buses.”
The buses in Lin’an are a nightmare. They regularly stall, have barely-there brakes, and are an extreme road hazard. Sometimes the doors wouldn’t open, sometimes they wouldn’t shut, and there were giant holes all over the place, covered up by patches of metal. If you sat in the back seats they swayed and shook every bump and turn, as they were no longer properly bolted down to the floor and moved on their own accord. Even I felt nervous in them at times. (Usually the times when the bus was trying to stop, and had extreme difficulty doing that.)
These buses roared down the street, a giant chugging box of steel, taking every and all liberty on the street, because really, who’s going to mess with these hulking beasts.
Until, last week that is. A few days after the new taxis were on the street, the new buses arrived. Sky blue, wide aisles, seats bolted down to the floor, these buses are amazing. Just like a normal city! I had the pleasure of riding it on the first day of the roll-out, and giggled to myself as I felt the driver struggling to drive. You know when you drive your own car for such a long time, it become habit? And then when you get, say, a rental car, it takes you 10 minutes to get the clutch and break action right? Well, it was just like that with this poor driver. The slightest pressure on the breaks actually stopped the bus, something he wasn’t used to, so he kept tapping the break lightly, sending all of us lurching forward.
With the new buses came some new bus routes, an unfortunate change. While they seem to try to make the routes more efficient, any change is hard for foreigners who never really understood the bus in the first place. For instance one bus line now leaves from the school in both directions. One direction goes straight to the bus station, a good thing, but the other direction goes all the way around the city, taking 45 minutes to get to the bus station. Guess which ones me and my friends got on the other day when trying to get to the bus station? Here’s a hint: It was the wrong direction.
So it’s going to take some time to figure out how the new buses work, but it is such a nice change. I feel a tiny bit safer (I’ll never feel really safe on Chinese roads) and the ride is much more comfortable. Sometimes, on the former buses, you couldn’t even talk to a friend due to the overpowering engine noise. Now, they are nice and quiet, as buses should be.
I’ve seen a lot of changes in this city when I first moved here. All modernization changes, trying to bring Lin’an into the future. And while much of it is good, I think sometimes I will miss the old rickety buses and their scary death trips.
Now, if there was only a way they could make the buses less crowded…