Needless to say, many of us disagree and we have been working closely
with a leading institute there. Don't be surprised if they pull
something dramatic to save them from a fate worse
than..well...congestion.. Having see the same roads there for the last 7
years, I can attest to how bad things are, even if its one of the least
bad cities in China. But they don't have much time.
>>> cpardo@... 7/12/2005 8:33:23 AM >>>
The New York Times has published an article about Shanghai's car
however stating that overcoming the car culture is almost impossible.
below. The article is in
Carlos F. Pardo
GTZ Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP)
Room 0942, Transport Division, UN-ESCAP
ESCAP UN Building
Rajadamnern Nok Rd.
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 2 - 288 2576
Fax: +66 (0) 2 - 280 6042
Mobile: +66 (0) 1 - 772 4727
A City's Traffic Plans Are Snarled by China's Car Culture
By HOWARD W. FRENCH
Published: July 12, 2005
SHANGHAI, July 9 - When officials drew up the blueprints for the
this city in the early 1980's, nary a skyscraper punctuated the
horizon, whose buildings mostly dated from the decades of Western
early in the last century.
Skip to next paragraphThe hugely ambitious plans called for Shanghai to
built anew. And among the top priorities in a city previously dominated
bicycles was avoiding the most common plagues of the automobile age -
unmanageable traffic and unbearable pollution.
To that end, enormous sums were spent on spectacular bridges, elevated
highways and a brand-new subway system. But today, glance out the
one of this city's 3,000 high-rises around 6 p.m., when snarling masses
horn-honking cars tend to congeal in gridlock, and it is hard to escape
impression that Shanghai, at least for now, is losing its bet.
As people in this richest of Chinese cities have grown more and more
affluent, they have displayed an American-style passion for the
But for Shanghai, as for much of China, getting rich and growing
cars have increasingly gone hand in hand, and have produced side
familiar in cities that have long been addicted to automobiles - from
air and stressful, marathon commutes to sharply rising oil consumption.
China accounts for about 12 percent of the world's energy demand, but
consumption is growing at more than four times the global rate,
Chinese oil company executives on an increasingly frantic search for
overseas supplies. The country's top environmental officials have
ecological and economic doom if China continues to follow this pattern.
in cities like Shanghai, where automobiles account for 70 percent to
percent of air pollution, nothing seems capable of stopping, or even
slowing, the rapid rise of a car culture.
This is not for lack of trying. In one attempt to slow the growth of
automobile traffic, the city has raised the fees for car registrations
year since 2000, doubling them over that time to about $4,600 per
more than twice the city's per capita income. Many drivers illegally
register their cars in other cities, where the fees are much lower, and
result is a never-ending cat-and-mouse game with the traffic police.
The traffic efforts have been coupled with a major expansion of the
transportation system, which comprises gleaming new subways and the
fastest train, a magnetic levitation vehicle that zips to the airport
under 10 minutes.
The steep growth in automobile traffic here, however, seems to mock
city's efforts. The original blueprints for a major expansion of
road network, drawn up two decades ago, predicted that Shanghai would
the threshold of two million cars in 2020. In fact, that figure was
"The estimates we made 20 years ago have been proven wrong," said Li
chief engineer of the city's Urban Planning Administration Bureau, in
something of an understatement. "The development of Shanghai has been
Even interim traffic estimates here have fallen far short. Two years
the city government rushed orders for the construction of a new,
loop expressway for central Shanghai, because other elevated
were already saturated at peak hours. "Just one year after some roads
completed, they reached vehicle flow volumes that were forecast for 15
years from now," said Yang Dongyuan, a professor at the School of
Transportation Engineering and vice president of Tongji University.
Meanwhile, the city is expanding its subway grid well beyond the 310
of track first planned. Two new lines are being added to the original
along with another 192 miles of track. Even so, the subway system,
and clean though it is, is one area where traffic has failed to meet
projections, with less than half the expected ridership on some lines.
reason, experts say, is that there are not enough trains, resulting in
overcrowding, which further encourages people to ride in cars.
To be sure, Shanghai's failure to master the challenge of the
reflects a mixture of forces, both economic and cultural. Foremost is
city's economic performance, which has been fast even by Chinese
and has outstripped even the most optimistic projections.
Add to this a flourishing consumer culture that equates car ownership,
however costly, with personal freedom, prestige and success.
In this regard, Yu Qiang, a 31-year-old salesman, is a model citizen
sorts. Mr. Yu spent more than $20,000 last year to buy his first car,
Chinese-made Buick, so that he could drive to work each morning instead
relying on public transportation.
Because of heavy traffic, the seven-mile commute usually takes a full
It includes dropping his 5-year-old son off at kindergarten and his
who teaches, at her school.
"A new subway line will be completed to my neighborhood later this
I'm hoping many other people will ride it so that the traffic will get
better," Mr. Yu said. "I'll keep driving my car, though. It's more
comfortable because I can listen to music, use the air-conditioner, and
Mr. Yu then made a comment that sounded like a city planner's nightmare
a car salesman's dream. "In China everybody wants to have a car, and
just one of them," he said. "We think of it as changing our lives." As
the traffic implications, he added, smiling, "The government has a lot
to improve the traffic, and I believe they will do it."