Beijing's municipal government has warned users of the world's largest subway system that fare increases could more than double the cost of an average commute.
The Chinese capital's 17 subway lines carry almost 10 million passengers a day – twice the number of New York's – for a flat fee of just Rmb2 ($0.33) per trip regardless of distance.
Low fares are a boon for residents, especially those who cannot afford sky-high property prices in central Beijing and commute long distances to work.
But the cheap fares also constitute a large and growing cost for the municipal government. Last year it increased the annual subsidy given to the system's operator, Beijing Infrastructure Investment, more than 50 percent to Rmb15.5 billion.
According to Moody's Investors Service, BII's operating income this year is expected to reach just Rmb5.8 billion.
Ahead of a public hearing on Tuesday, People's Daily, the Chinese Communist party's flagship newspaper, warned commuters that they would face an average journey price of Rmb4.4, with fares calculated according to distance traveled.