- Posted January 19, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Life in China
Tomorrowland Everyday in Chongqing
Growing up in Southern California, going to Disneyland was a big part of my life. I always enjoyed the (then) futuristic monorail to Tomorrowland, soaring along on its gracefully curved concrete beams high above the ground on pillars.
This was the first thing I thought of when I saw lines 2 and 3 of the “subway” in Chongqing, which are only underground for a part of the trip. Much of the time they float above on, yes, a monorail track. At about fifty-six kilometers, it is the world’s longest monorail system.
Chongqing presents special challenges for a subway system. It is a sprawling megalopolis at the junction of two rivers, so its many far-flung districts are separated by water in many places. Plus, it's not called “The Mountain City” for nothing. Its topography is a seemingly endless series of hills and mountains, with the buildings clustered on them at different levels. There are hardly any flat, straight streets, everything curves around in up and down undulations. Finally, there are A LOT of people here, so the subway cars must be able to carry many passengers.
Hence the unique Chongqing system, officially called the Chongqing Rail Transit, or CRT. Besides the monorails, it has other, more conventional, elevated trains that cover routes rendered flat by placing the tracks far above ground. The whole system is routed through mountains and buildings when necessary.
Visually, this contributes to Chongqing’s city-of-the-future look with its curving roads frequently on pillars leading onto bridges carrying their glacially-paced traffic, while in the same view, the subway, on an unobstructed elevated track, swoops by, often passing straight through the face of a cliff or the side of an office tower.
I travel mostly on lines 2 and 3, the monorail lines. Looking at them closely, you can see they were made for this city. Unlike the Disneyland monorail, which looks like a streamlined bullet lightly placed on its track, the CQ monorail cars are very deep rectangles, with the lower half wrapped around its much-thicker and heavier monorail track like the beefy arms of a wrestler. The ride is smooth and if you sit in the front car, you can see the track goes up and down and curves around in a manner that would be impossible for an ordinary subway train.
Line 2 runs along the Southern bank of the Jialing River and for my entire ride I am treated to a continuous changing view that at night is simply breathtaking. The banks of the river are steep cliffs and the stations are perched on pillars on their edges. They also offer stunning views.
It is a testament both to amazing look of Chongqing and to the nature of the people here that they are not immune to the views. Even though people take subways for work commutes and other mundane everyday reasons, Chongqing folk still stop and take pictures. It's nice for me because I’m always doing it, so I don’t feel like such a tourist, but it is also an example of the extraordinary spirit this city has.