While on the subject of transportation, the subway is one of the nicer things Tianjin has to offer, even though the main line doesn’t cross the river or run to Tianjin Station (a moot point for now, since the station is still being renovated). In contrast to Beijing’s two main subway lines, the cars and the stations are clean, comfortable, and orderly. Things are pretty much the same as they were when I made this video in July 2006:
According to government plans, the Tianjin metro will expand in the coming years to offer a total of nine lines offering connectivity throughout the city and between Tianjin and outlying regions in the Binhai New Area, giving Tianjin one of the most advanced metro systems in China.
Lest I be accused of excess Tianjin boosterism, there’s a big “but” coming. Though the first line has only been open for a year and a half, Tianjin’s subway seems to be running into serious maintenance problems. Like most modern subways, Tianjin’s subway uses a token system and automated token kiosks. Starting last year, the token kiosks began to periodically go on the fritz at every station in the city. When one kiosk breaks down, it’s not a big deal, but when four out of five kiosks are marked “out of order” at a station, as was the case in the photo below, one begins to wonder where the corners were cut when installing the system and just how reliable the infrastructure will be when lines two and three open in the next two years.