The best example of vertical transportation in Chongqing—The Kaixuan Road Elevator

The best example of vertical transportation in Chongqing—The Kaixuan Road Elevator

Dear readers, did you go traveling during the past May Day holiday? According to data released by the Chongqing Municipal Commission of Culture and Tourism, the city’s A-level scenic spots have received 10.198 million tourists during the past holiday. Visitors coming to Chongqing can not only enjoy the major scenic spots, but also experience the unique transportation system of this mountain city. If the widely known “light rail going through the building” scene shows the horizontal connection within the city, the place we will explore this time presents the wisdom of Chongqing people to build vertical transportation.

In the 1980s, the people of Chongqing were limited by the altitude difference of the Yuzhong Peninsula, so they could only travel on the winding mountain roads. To save the trouble of climbing uphill, engineers at the Chongqing Design Institute came up with the idea of building an elevator as a vertical mode of transportation, which not only shortens distance but also saves time.

Once the idea has been confirmed, the engineers have also taken a lot of effort to locate the site, taking into account both the topography——preferably steep slopes——and the demand for passenger flow. Due to the topography of Yuzhong Peninsula, which is low along the river and high in the center, the Kaixuan Road, composed of nine stone arch bridges, became the only way to transport military reserves during the period of Chongqing being the provisional capital, which played an important role in connecting the lower part of the city near the Yangtze River with the upper half of the city centered on Xiaoshizi and Jiaochangkou. To count passenger traffic, engineers used the traditional method of counting beans——for a period of time, the staff put a bean into the box for every person who passed by the Kaixuan Gate. At the end of the day, they counted the beans in the box. After several calculations, the daily flow of people is about 20,000 person-times, which shows that the number of people passing through this area is indeed quite large, and it is necessary to improve the traffic conditions there.


Once the site was chosen, the engineers thought it would be a waste of space to simply build a vertical elevator based on the triangular slope, so they again used their ingenuity creating a building that combines residential housing, office and a public elevator. The vertical elevator is at the outer part of the building, with different entrances and exits from the folk houses, so that the passers-by and residents do not disturb each other. To make things better, the engineers painted the balconies on each floor in colors of a rainbow and decorated ribbons around the building, giving it a sense of beauty, making it recognizable from a distance to those on a boat or ferry in the river. As a result, the 43.5-meter Kaixuan Road Elevator became a landmark in Chongqing immediately after it was officially opened to public in March 1986, and it was the first indoor elevator used for urban public transportation in China.

Once the Elevator was put into operation, the ticket prices for going up were 0.1yuan and half of that price for going down. This price is not low compared to the facts that a bowl of Xiaomian (the typical noodle in Chongqing) cost only 0.08 yuan in the late 80’s, but a daily traffic of 12,000-14,000 persons-time proved the popularity of the Elevator and how important it was in Chongqing people’s life. On October 1, 1999, the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, the number of passengers to the Elevator, up to 20,000, reached the peak since its operation.

After entering the millennium, the urban area around the Elevator has been demolished and rebuilt, and the means of transportation have become more diversified, which has led to a decline in the number of people taking the Elevator. Thirty years later, with the tourism development in Chongqing, many tourists come here every day to spend one yuan to experience this unique public transportation mode in Chongqing, which has become a new highlight of touring in Chongqing.

Written by Zhang Yangxin

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