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February 22, 2011

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Bus cuts "force" residents on to dearer Metro

RESIDENTS claim they are being "forced" to use the more expensive subway system as suburban bus routes are scaled back and terminate at Metro stations.

Concerns were raised after some bus lines were shortened to connect with Metro stations instead of going downtown, or canceled altogether.

Passengers complain they now have fewer choices. "It's difficult for us going downtown," said a resident, surnamed Cui, living in Baoshan District.

Cui said residents now have only one bus route to People's Square after another was recently canceled. More buses routes connect to a Line 1 station now. The bus costs 2 yuan (30 US cents) while the Metro charges double that.

City traffic authorities said the adjustment, involving 283 routes, "aims to cut unnecessary routes and tackle congestion downtown."

Public opinion on adjustments is still be solicited, said officials.

Among the routes facing change, 37 are expected to be canceled and another 32 routes where two companies vie for trade will be cut back. Some 38 new routes will be added.

Public transport currently handles around 30 percent of Shanghai commuters, a figure authorities want to increase to 50 percent by 2015. It is estimated that the Metro will handle half of this, while the percentage using buses will decrease as ferry use is developed.

However, traffic management officials say they still face pressure to increase their reach when cutting back would make operations more profitable. Shanghai has about 1,165 bus routes and more than 17,000 buses. This overall figure is set to increase as communities grow.

"We are supposed to only add, not subtract," said Lu Gaosheng, a spokesman with the city traffic management office.

Companies complain that as some lines stretch longer and longer, resources are not used efficiently. If the number of routes is reduced, extra buses can be used on those routes that need them most, Lu said.


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