Maybe. A few days ago I had to be in Shanghai for an early morning meeting (9.30am is considered early when you are commuting in from 2nd tier cities such as Suzhou). For a trip that should have taken less than around 1 hour door-to-door from my home in Suzhou to the meeting room near Shanghai’s People's Square, it turned out to become a 3 hour frustrating slog because of the ever great Suzhou taxi which never arrived. In Suzhou (especially in the Suzhou Industrial Park (S.I.P.), expat area where I live), it is difficult to get taxis anytime of the day, and customers have to dial 67776777 to order a taxi. My frustration commenced at 6.30am and went on until 7.20am during which time I constantly kept on dialling the hotline number only for it to be 'busy' (read= nobody in the call operation room!). In the end I was left with no choice but to take a local bus to the train station (which also arrived late). The beauty of it all was that the bus not only cost a meagre 1RMB (as opposed to the 60RMB that would have cost in the taxi), but it also took only around 25 minutes to get to Suzhou Railway Station (taxi somehow does take longer even if I had taken one!). Suzhou is split into 3 major districts: Suzhou Industrial Park (S.I.P.), Suzhou New District (S.N.D.), and downtown Suzhou (which is busy, historically and culturally rich, and feels more like the real China). In this article I am referring to Suzhou SIP (and perhaps even SND) where the roads are new and just deserted for most of the time.
When it comes to poor provision of public transport in 2nd tier Chinese cities, then Suzhou is no exception. Some other Chinese cities where residents suffer similar situations include Hangzhou, Dalian, Tianjin, Ningbo, and Nanjing. The vast majority of Suzhou's residents either ride E-bikes, or they are rich enough to own cars (the former outnumbers the latter). It would be fair to say that the SIP area looks nothing short of being a ghost town for the majority of the day (and night!) with empty roads that have the occasional tractor or a person on an E-bike. The roads are wide and empty enough to land a small plane should you wish to do so, and there is hardly a whisker in sight!
The opening of the city's first metro line in the summer should make life easier for Suzhou's residents. However even when that is in operation it would be tricky because the metro line (there will only be one line to begin with) won't connect most of the focal points of the city including the city’s famous landmarks. For those connections, people would still have to dial the hotline number and hope that someone picks up the phone on the other side! Note that the operators only speak Chinese, so if you have not picked up enough Chinese yet, then learn how to order a taxi at least because it will become very useful should you start to live in a 2nd tier Chinese city.
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