CHONGQING, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Ran Wen, 45, can still remember the feeling of the breeze against his face when he took the ferry across the Jialing River to visit his aunt more than 30 years ago.
"It was the most memorable childhood experience for me," said the resident from southwest China's Chongqing municipality. However, over the past 20 years, Ran never took the ride again.
"It's not that I don't like taking the ferry anymore. With more convenient means of transportation to cross the rivers, I just no longer need it," said Ran.
Ferries used to be an indispensable part of everyday life for residents in Chongqing, a hilly mega-city situated at the convergence of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers.
"In the 1980s, our company had a fleet of 40 passenger ships and operated 19 routes that linked all districts in the city as well as suburban towns along the rivers," said Tang Zuohua, 64, a sailor with Chongqing Passenger Liner Co., Ltd, the city's main ferry provider.
At that time, the company offered ferry services as frequently as one ride every ten minutes and completed a daily average of more than 100,000 rides for the city's commuters, according to Tang.
Today, Chongqing has only two passenger ships in service. Many times, the cabins are empty.
Since China's reform and opening-up policy in 1978, Chongqing's infrastructure developed rapidly. In the city proper, 29 bridges have been built over the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers over the past four decades.
They have played a crucial role in the city's transportation system. Municipal data shows that on average, 60 percent of Chongqing's 30 million residents travel across two bridges every day.
Meanwhile, Chongqing has also become a city on wheels. By the end of 2017, the city had 3.7 million vehicles, meaning that one in every seven residents owned a car.
"In the past, it could take hours to travel across the Yangtze River by ferry if it was foggy," said 61-year-old Chongqing resident Wang Dayu. "Now it only takes minutes to go across the bridge by car."
Ferries may have lost their luster as a means of transportation, but the passenger ships are by no means idling around. They have played a key role in the city's increasingly booming tourism industry.
In the first three quarters this year, tourists from home and abroad paid more than 550 million visits to Chongqing, known for its inclined roads and misty sky, mahjong, and hot-pot.
"In a forty-minute ride on the river, tourists can enjoy a wide variety of sceneries in Chongqing," said Tang, the sailor, adding that the number of boat travelers can surpass 20,000 during weekends.
Yi Xiaoguang, director of a local economic research institute, said the fate of the ferry is closely linked with the city's development.
"Ferries have been part of the collective memories of Chongqingers," Yi said. "They will continue to serve as a witness to the city's development."