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Re: WorldTransport Forum NY Times article on car dependence

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  • Lee Schipper
    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
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 14, 2005
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      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 >>>
      Dear all,



      The New York Times has published an article about Shanghai's car
      dependence,
      however stating that overcoming the car culture is almost impossible.
      See
      below. The article is in
      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/12/international/asia/12china.html



      Carlos F. Pardo

      Project Coordinator

      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

      e-mail: <mailto:carlos.pardo@...> carlos.pardo@...

      Website: <http://www.sutp.org/> www.sutp.org



      A City's Traffic Plans Are Snarled by China's Car Culture

      By HOWARD W. FRENCH
      <http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=HOWARD%20W.%20FRENCH&fdq

      =19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=HOWARD%20W.%20FRENCH&inline=nyt-per>


      Published: July 12, 2005

      SHANGHAI, July 9 - When officials drew up the blueprints for the
      redesign of
      this city in the early 1980's, nary a skyscraper punctuated the
      low-slung
      horizon, whose buildings mostly dated from the decades of Western
      control
      early in the last century.

      Skip to next paragraphThe hugely ambitious plans called for Shanghai to
      be
      built anew. And among the top priorities in a city previously dominated
      by
      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
      window of
      one of this city's 3,000 high-rises around 6 p.m., when snarling masses
      of
      horn-honking cars tend to congeal in gridlock, and it is hard to escape
      the
      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
      automobile.
      But for Shanghai, as for much of China, getting rich and growing
      attached to
      cars have increasingly gone hand in hand, and have produced side
      effects
      familiar in cities that have long been addicted to automobiles - from
      filthy
      air and stressful, marathon commutes to sharply rising oil consumption.


      China accounts for about 12 percent of the world's energy demand, but
      its
      consumption is growing at more than four times the global rate,
      sending
      Chinese oil company executives on an increasingly frantic search for
      overseas supplies. The country's top environmental officials have
      warned of
      ecological and economic doom if China continues to follow this pattern.
      But
      in cities like Shanghai, where automobiles account for 70 percent to
      80
      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
      every
      year since 2000, doubling them over that time to about $4,600 per
      vehicle -
      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
      the
      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
      public
      transportation system, which comprises gleaming new subways and the
      world's
      fastest train, a magnetic levitation vehicle that zips to the airport
      in
      under 10 minutes.

      The steep growth in automobile traffic here, however, seems to mock
      the
      city's efforts. The original blueprints for a major expansion of
      Shanghai's
      road network, drawn up two decades ago, predicted that Shanghai would
      pass
      the threshold of two million cars in 2020. In fact, that figure was
      reached
      last November.

      "The estimates we made 20 years ago have been proven wrong," said Li
      Junhao,
      chief engineer of the city's Urban Planning Administration Bureau, in
      something of an understatement. "The development of Shanghai has been
      beyond
      our imagination."

      Even interim traffic estimates here have fallen far short. Two years
      ago,
      the city government rushed orders for the construction of a new,
      elevated
      loop expressway for central Shanghai, because other elevated
      expressways
      were already saturated at peak hours. "Just one year after some roads
      were
      completed, they reached vehicle flow volumes that were forecast for 15
      to 20
      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
      miles
      of track first planned. Two new lines are being added to the original
      15,
      along with another 192 miles of track. Even so, the subway system,
      gleaming
      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.
      The
      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
      automobile
      reflects a mixture of forces, both economic and cultural. Foremost is
      the
      city's economic performance, which has been fast even by Chinese
      standards,
      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
      of
      sorts. Mr. Yu spent more than $20,000 last year to buy his first car,
      a
      Chinese-made Buick, so that he could drive to work each morning instead
      of
      relying on public transportation.

      Because of heavy traffic, the seven-mile commute usually takes a full
      hour.
      It includes dropping his 5-year-old son off at kindergarten and his
      wife,
      who teaches, at her school.

      "A new subway line will be completed to my neighborhood later this
      year, and
      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
      it's
      not crowded."

      Mr. Yu then made a comment that sounded like a city planner's nightmare
      and
      a car salesman's dream. "In China everybody wants to have a car, and
      I'm
      just one of them," he said. "We think of it as changing our lives." As
      for
      the traffic implications, he added, smiling, "The government has a lot
      to do
      to improve the traffic, and I believe they will do it."
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