Chongqing's alley bus a saving grace for housebound elderly

(Xinhua) 14:04, December 02, 2021

CHONGQING, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Yang Guangming, a 69-year-old senior citizen with a disability in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, can barely swipe his bus card when he gets on the bus. The stop is located on a steep and narrow slope road.

The hillside city boasts a myriad of zigzag roads, which is a challenge for many of the elderly on their daily commutes.

For Yang, who suffers from leg impairments, even a short distance from home to the nearby wet market down the slope seems to be a long trudge even with the support of his cane.

Thankfully, the local government provided a green minibus for his community in July, which drives around housebound senior citizens in the city.

Nicknamed the "alley buses" in Chongqing, the pure electric bus contains six seats specifically designed for inaccessible locations, such as narrow lanes and abrupt slopes.

"Chongqing initiated the alley bus project last June. So far, 48 alley buses have been put into operation in 13 routes in six districts. This benefits about 10,700 residents," said Zhou Zheng, deputy general manager of Chongqing Public Transport Holding (Group) Co., Ltd.

Zhou added that the routes for the alley buses are also designed to be integrated with the surrounding subway stations, enabling key groups, including students and commuters, to reach metro stations more conveniently.

Before the arrival of the "savior" bus, it was a dilemma for the elderly. Taking a taxi for such a short distance is too expensive for them while walking there is physically demanding, said Yang.

But now, Yang enjoys his free daily bus rides whenever it's not raining.

"In the morning, I would take the bus to a teahouse to meet with my friends and have some tea, or go to the wet market. In the afternoon, I would make my way home by bus and prepare my dinner," said Yang.

Peng Jian, an alley bus driver, bears witness to the growing popularity of the special service among the city's elderly. "Whether it is going to a community hospital or picking up their grandchildren, lots of seniors will choose to take the alley bus rather than walk."

"Though the alley bus cannot make any profit as most of its users are the city's senior citizens who get to ride for free, the service demonstrates how the local government cares about us," said one senior passenger.

This year, according to Zhou, Chongqing's alley bus is expected to increase its routes to 15 and introduce more new vehicle models with larger space, more seats and user-friendly designs. 

(Web editor: Shi Xi, Liang Jun)


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