Shanghai's ever-expanding subway system: How to keep track

Culture, Travel | by Ric Stockfis
Posted: January 7th, 2010 | Updated: October 13th, 2010 | Comments
Anyone that's spent more than a week in Shanghai will know just how fast the place can change. Stumble across a kooky Tibetan café on a Sunday afternoon, and by the time you bring your friends back the following weekend it's become a Thai massage joint. Or an auto-repair shop. But still nothing prepares you for the searing, steroidal pace of development that's taken hold of the city as Expo 2010 Shanghai approaches. And nowhere has reaped the benefits quite like the Metro system.
The sheer number of stations that have opened in recent weeks is almost laughable (and it's not often you can say that about transportation infrastructure). Five years ago there were only three lines, now there are 11. Another nine or ten are planned for the next decade (more on history and the future here). It's surely only a matter of time before the network, which daily looks more and more like a maturing neural pathway, becomes self-aware. (Not that we're worried. As long as she keeps the voice she now uses to announce what station is next, we'll happily go along with whatever she orders us to do.)
Keeping track of what goes where, and when it's open, is only going to get harder. (Even if you do have ten years to commit superhero in the same carriage to help you out.) Fortunately, there are several very useful, regularly-updated resources that can spare you the indignity of ending up in Jiading when you were aiming for Jinqiao.
  1. SmartShanghai have a straightforward map of the system alongside their hugely popular city map (they also have lunch deal and happy hour maps if you need fortifying before braving the subterranean deep).
  2. ExploreShanghai have a fantastic interactive map that allows you to find out more about each and every station. It also shows the overground location on Google Maps (useful if you want to know how to find, say, the fabric market when you emerge blinking into the world above), the distance to nearby stations, average journey times, and photos from the surrounding area. Best of all, you can carry it with you as an iPhone app.
  3. Lastly (but not leastly), if you enter your start and end points into ICExpat's map it'll tell you not just the most efficient route, but how long it should take and how much it'll cost you.
One thing no-one seems to be able to work out is precisely when some of the newer lines will begin full-time service (at the moment many of them are only operational between 9am and 4pm, while they "test" the service). The official line is "in time for Expo," which is being taken to mean a gradual, non-committal transition over the next three months. But let's just say, for the sake of argument, you have to be at the eastern end of Line 2 for work by 9am, and—again, hypothetically—you live right by the Changshu Lu metro stop (now just one stop away from Line 2's Jing'an Temple on the  soon-to-be celebrated Line 7). Wouldn't it be rather nice to know when you're going to be able to ditch that biting, blustery, too-damn-early-in-the-morning walk, and just ride the whole thing out? Anyone? Anyone?
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