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You can’t get there from here

This will be one of the most negative posts I will write. Not in the “This is bad” sense, but in the “What do you expect sense?”. Reading this, I only ask the reader to consider other cases, and treat like cases alike.

The first problem of teaching english is often getting to class. Owen has many campuses in Chongqing, and each one has their own transportation problems.

When I lived in Columbia, Missouri (Pop. 100,000) for grad school, I could never understand New Yorkers in sitcoms complaining “I drove cross-town for this?” I could drive five minutes, and be anywhere in Columbia. When I lived in Kansas City (pop. 3 Million) I finally got the joke. Cross-town was a chore. Big cities mean transportation problems. Chongqing (pop. 30 Million) Is a Mega-city (one of 33 on the planet) has unique transportation problems.

Most local residents feel themselves quite mobile. This is because most chains make a point of having enough locations to be at any given neighborhood. However, One of my good friends lives in the far west side of town. This has put a strain on our friendship and time together. There’s a million Starbucks, but only one of my friend.

Chongqing is at the meeting of two rivers, so has three natural barriers running through the city. On the other hand, there are 14,000 bridges in Chongqing (No exaggeration). Compare this to the eight bridges in the San Fransisco bay area. Chongqing is also a mountain town, when walking, it’s common to look down on the roof of a building that’s a block away. When you’re walking anywhere, you’re likely going up and down.

The streets of Chongqing are not laid out in a grid pattern. They are more like a bowl of noddles pattern. This is because many of the thoroughfares have existed for centuries. The mountainous terrain also make hairpin turns a common occurrence just not to have a steep grade. It’s easy to get lost if you start thinking in “Left-Right” terms. Two rights can equal a wrong turn.

On the third hand, Chongqing has one of the best rail systems I’ve ever seen, CRT. I’ve been on BART, The Tube, The Metro, NYC subway, and DC Metro, among a few others. It’s clean, fast, and cheap. Trips cost from 2-6 yuan, and most major neighborhoods are covered. During rush hour, it is crowded, but 30 million people need to get to work.

For places that the CRT doesn’t cover, the bus system is extensive. Buses arrive often and the fares are even cheaper than the CRT. These buses are never overpacked, but always mostly full.

This leads me to the traffic. Westerners are often frightened when first encountering Chongqing traffic. It’s chaotic. Lanes seem like suggestions. Scooters fill up every available space between cars creating a super-fluid. Drivers are universally assertive in edging out the next car for just one space ahead. Anyone stopped for a moment will be passed. U-turns are common on the fraction of streets that aren’t one-way. If a driver can move around a stopped car by pulling a wheel on a sidewalk, they’ll do it. On the sidewalk parking is common. Traffic is further snarled by the ubiquitous construction zones that are fixed and re-emerge like unsinkable rubber ducks. On the fourth hand, I’ve never been in an accident and only seen one fender bender in my year here. By car is my favorite way to travel in Chongqing.

Chongqing has a lot of ride-sharing companies. The biggest is Didi. The app is easy to use and the drivers are professional. The cars are clean, and you rarely have to wait for one. The taxi system is likewise everywhere. You can identify an open taxi by the red sign on the front. I rarely have to wait for a taxi.

I don’t need four hands to hail a taxi.

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