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2021-05-19 11:24:37

A residential complex in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou has unveiled “public transit elevators” that charge 1 yuan ($0.16) per ride, an initiative that could solve the problem of how to raise funds for facilities much-needed by elderly residents, local media reported Tuesday.

So far, 75 such elevators have been installed in the Biguiyuan residential complex in the city’s Lin’an District, and there are plans to add 39 more by the end of May. The complex currently accommodates 1,849 households, all of them living in six-story buildings constructed some 20 years ago. Around 30% of the residents are over 60, according to community official Du Weidong.

Many older residential buildings in China aren’t equipped with elevators. With the country’s rapidly aging population, the six-story, elevatorless buildings were becoming a concern to their elderly residents.

A resident uses her face to pay for a ride in a “public transit elevator” in Hangzhou, May 17, 2021. From @钱江晚报 on Weibo

A resident uses her face to pay for a ride in a “public transit elevator” in Hangzhou, May 17, 2021. From @钱江晚报 on Weibo

In recent years, local governments have started accepting residential communities’ applications to self-fund additional elevators. In Beijing, 636 elevators were added to older residential complexes last year, while in Hangzhou, over 1,800 elevator projects have been completed in such communities since 2017, benefiting some 22,000 households.

However, installing an elevator costs around 300,000 yuan with government subsidies, which can be prohibitively expensive if it’s not shared by a large pool of residents. “As most of the residents here are working-class, there is pressure on them to bear this cost,” Du told local media.

But the Biguiyuan complex has settled on a novel solution. The company installing the elevators bears cost of construction and maintenance, while the residents pay to use the facilities, just like they would for public transport.

The service provider has helped the residents set up cashless payment accounts: The elevator scans a resident’s face and deducts 1 yuan per use, regardless of how many people are inside. For outside visitors, meanwhile, residents can send them a QR code that allows them to use the service.

By the end of 2019, people aged 60 and above accounted for 23% of Hangzhou’s total population, while those aged 80 and above accounted for 16% of this sub-group.

According to a local regulation, Hangzhou housing communities can install elevators if a vote among at least two-thirds of all residents yields 75% approval or higher. In Biguiyuan, over 80% of the residents signed a petition to add elevators to their buildings.

“It’s like taking a bus within the complex,” a Biguiyuan resident in his 50s surnamed Xu told Sixth Tone. “This is a good model — practical and cheap. I hope the quality is also good enough so they won’t break down often.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: An exterior view of the residential community (left); A woman exits the pay-to-use elevator in Hangzhou, May 17, 2021. From @钱江晚报 on Weibo)