Category Archives: Sustainable urbanisation

Uxcester Garden City project

David Rudlin of URBED was the winner of the Wolfson Economics Prize 2014, announced in September 2014, with the Uxcester Garden City project:

Vision:  We illustrate how the city of Uxcester could double its size by adding three substantial urban extensions each housing around 50,000 people. These lie within a zone 10km from the city centre and are configured as triangles with only the point touching the edge of the settlement. The farmland around the city is currently not accessible to the public and of little ecological value. The concept is that for every hectare of development another will be given back to the city as accessible public space, forests, lakes country parks etc… Each of these satellite extensions would be served by a tram or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running from the existing mainline station on disused lines and then switching to on-street running to loop through the new neighbourhoods. The housing would be developed incrementally to create space for small developers and self-builders alongside the volume housebuilders in a process that recreates the way that the great estates were built in London.   

Popularity: Extending an existing city solves some problems but creates others. The greatest of these will be the task of winning over the existing community, which is likely to be articulate and honed by years of experience resisting development. We suggest a ‘Social Contract’ that would address the concerns of this community. Rather than a future spent fighting years of ill-planned development, the Garden City would offer the prospect of a clear 40 year vision that accommodates development while minimising its impact. The satellite extensions are planned to minimise their visual impact, to create a green grid of accessible open space and to generate investment in new transport infrastructure and city centre facilities to benefit the whole of the community. The aim is to re-frame the argument by getting cities to bid to be designated as a Garden City as they currently bid for City of Culture. 

Economic Viability and Governance:  In the absence of large scale subsidy the only solution to the economics of the Garden City is what Ebenezer Howard called the ‘unearned increment’. We are proposing a deal for landowners in which they trade a small chance of securing a housing consent on their land, for a guarantee of receiving existing use value plus substantial compensation and a financial stake in the Garden City Trust. We have assumed that the land will be brought at an average cost of £350,000 per hectare, 20 times its current agricultural value but only 15% of its value as housing land. The economics of the scheme are based on these differentials. We have assumed that, by extending an existing town rather than building from scratch we can reduce the infrastructure bill from £80,000 to £60,000 per unit. Even assuming that half of the land acquired is used as open space, this still generates sufficient value to fund this level of infrastructure spending. By selling the sites to developers at a fixed price and providing the infrastructure collectively, a market incentive will be created to invest in the quality of the housing.   

The process would be managed by the Garden City Trust that would be owned jointly by the local councils, central government, the local community and land owners – and their stakes would have a tradable capital value. The Garden City Trust would be vested with the land, would commission masterplanning work and then use the equity of the land to raise a Bond to fund the initial investment in infrastructure. Development would take place on a rolling programme with the early land receipts being reinvested. The experience in Holland suggests that such a rolling programme can procure infrastructure investment three times greater that the value of the initial bond.    

We describe the seven ages of the Garden City Trust from its conception and birth through its infancy and adolescence to maturity, middle age and eventually retirement. Over time the role of the trust will evolve as it moves from the development stage to the management phase where it will be structured to enable the local community to take on the stewardship of their neighbourhoods. Rising values over the life of the project will allow initial investments to be repaid. This is not a new model, it is the modern day equivalent of the great estates like Grosvenor or The Bournville Village Trust. 

Our model addresses the weaknesses in the system that have made it so difficult to match the quality of the schemes we admire on the continent. We have debated as a team whether we are being too ambitious with the size of the settlement we are proposing. However nationally we need to increase housing production by the equivalent of one Milton Keynes every year. We therefore need bold strokes to radically increase the rate at which we are building and Uxcester provides a model to do just this. 

For more information on URBED and the submission, click here: http://www.urbed.coop/wolfson-economic-prize

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Signal Tree

Travelling in China, you may see a particularly tall tree on a mountain or in a park; its colour is similar to other trees around it. But when you move and look closer and touch this tree, the texture does not feels like tree bark but a plastic surface. It is actually a signal tree, the telecom operators’ idea to preserve the natural landscape. So, signal towers are built in the shape of a tree. This is a construction unique to urban development in China.

signal tree

Image source:  gaomin.t.sohu.com

Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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Urban resilience, an integrated approach of urban reconstruction

Lixiong Liu, Yanliu Lin, Shifu Wang (2014),  Urban design for post-earthquake reconstruction: A case study of Wenchuan County, China, Habitat international (2014) 290-299.

How to reconstruct a post-earthquake area by protecting the safety system and creating public spaces while considering the involvement of different stakeholders in the process of urban design? In the case study of Wenchuan County in China, a top-dow integrated approach contributed to promote economic growth and to enhance the quality of life within the city in the long term, but it seemed that this rapid reconstruction driven by public authorities has lead to new issues between urban resilience and the dynamics of the real estate market, and between the daily need of habitants and the new open spaces.

Urban design is a matter of collaboration between various disciplines, resulting in three-dimensional urban forms and an enhancement of the quality of urban life (Waterman & Wall, 2009). The “quality of life” associated with the built environment includes not only the physical characteristics of the place, such as the diversity of open space (Allan & Bryant, 2010), but also the social attributes of the environment, such as the sense of neighbourhood (Chapman & Larkham, 2007), increased vitality and safety, available amenities and facilities (Carmona, De Magalhaes, Edwards, Awuor, & Aminossehe, 2001). Contemporary urban design theories are concerned with shaping city and urban spaces to encourage social activities within the urban fabric, create positive social interactions, satisfy ecological needs, mitigate the negative effects of urbanization and promote economic growth (Clancy, 2011). The key principles of such theories include places for people, enriching the existing, making connections, working with the landscape, mixing uses and forms, managing the investment and designing for change (Davies, 2007). Some recent urban design literatures also focus on vision development, strategy-making and the role of key stakeholders in the production of space (Lin and De Meulder, 2012 and Salet, 2006).

(…)

Weizhou Town was severely destroyed during the earthquake. In the process of reconstruction, priority was given to “higher levels of safety and earthquake resistance” that is one of the main concerns of urban design in earthquake-prone areas (see Ciborowski, 1982). As a considerable amount of arable land was lost and the majority of industrial facilities were damaged, how to promote economic development became a key issue of the town. Considering that there were many tourism attractions in the surrounding area (such as traditional Qiang stockade villages) and the town became famous after the earthquake, the development of tourism was thus adopted as a new strategy to promote economic growth. Consequently, three visions were proposed in the Urban Design for the Reconstruction of Weizhou Town (2009). Firstly, Weizhou Town was to be the ‘Sunshine Gokseong’ of Sichuan Western Qiang areas – a safe and ecological town. In order to realize this vision, a series of actions (e.g. the creation of three large evacuation squares and the recovery of the ecosystem in the surrounding mountains) were performed. Second, Weizhou Town was to be an important node of the Xiqiang Cultural Corridor. It was not only the memorial base of the earthquake, but also a cultural and historical town with traditional Qiang stockade villages. Third, Weizhou Town was comprised of a part of the Western Sichuan tourism system. The construction of memorials and tourism facilities and the improvement of the infrastructure fulfilled the demands of both tourism development and the town’s inhabitants. The three visions of the urban design project were related to the town’s long-term vision, namely to become ‘a provincial level historical–cultural site, a tourism town, a traffic hub, a political centre and an ecological zone’ (Recovery and Reconstruction Plan of Weizhou Town (2008–2020)).

Overview of institutional arrangements in the formulation of urban design project for the reconstruction of Weizhou Town. (Source: authors’ drawing.)

Full-size image (65 K)

Full article available on Habitat International, n°36.

 

Oriane Pillet

Intern at the CNRS, UrbaChina project. M.A. in urban local development (IEDES, Paris); M.A. in international development studies (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris – Utrecht University); B.A. in geography and law (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris).

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Beijing might push some yamen out of the city

Several newspapers have reported this week that the Chinese Government is planning to push government offices, wholesale markets, some medical resources, labour-intensive businesses, as well as big polluters out of Beijing in order to decongest the capital. Baoding city (保定市) plans to create several new districts to absorb new residents. The local government has allegedly reserved 120,000 ha. of land for the project (6% of its total area). Baoding is just a stone’s throw from Beijing (40 minutes by train), and would become a satellite city through the implementation of the plan. Speculators have already started pouring money into the real estate market.1 China would not be the first country to think up such a plan. South Korea launched a similar project in 2007, creating a new administrative district 120 kilometres out of Seoul to relocate government agencies.

Baoding, a city just outside Beijing, in Hebei province will create 34 districts to absorb branches of institutes and companies based in the overcrowded capital, authorities say.

Baoding would set aside 115,000 hectares for the project, Mayor Ma Yufeng told the Beijing Times yesterday.

Plagued by pollution, traffic jams and population pressure, Beijing is pushing labour-intensive businesses out.

Baoding, located about 150 kilometres away, and neighbouring Langfang will become satellite cities for the capital, according to directives issued by the provincial government and a Communist Party committee last week.

To read more about this article posted in the SCMP:   http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1462075/baoding-ready-beijing-overflow

  1. Baoding huoshao – 保定火烧 http://www.infzm.com/content/99539. Last accessed 4 March, 2014 []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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China’s Li Keqiang about urbanization

Economy, Elizabeth C. 2013, September 10. China’s Li Keqiang on the urbanization warpath. Asia Unbound. http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2013/09/10/chinas-li-keqiang-on-the-urbanization-warpath/ (accessed 19 September 2013)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is on the urbanization warpath. For Li, urbanization—transforming rural Chinese into urban dwellers—has become perhaps the most important issue of his early months as premier. Most recently, on September 7, in advance of November’s Party Plenum to lay out the country’s economic blueprint, he met with a group of experts to discuss urbanization strategies. Scarcely a month goes by where he does not give a speech or offer some commentary on the issue. For Li, successfully urbanizing China is at the heart of the country’s ability to continue to grow economically. He notes that urban residents spend 3.6 times more than rural residents, for example, underscoring the importance of urbanization to China’s economic rebalancing from an investment and export led to   consumption-based economy. His remarks in March 2013 make clear his fears that if China does not find the correct urbanization path forward, it will fall into the trap of many Latin American countries with “dual” urban structures characterized by “urban slums” and “other social problems.”

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Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Urban China on screen: the postsocialist cinematic city

Berra, J.1 (2013) Urban China on screen: the sixth generation and the postsocialist cinematic city. Geography Compass. 7 (8) pp.588–596. DOI: 10.1111/gec3.12061

This article will consider the relationship between the city and the cinema with regard to the films of China’s ‘Sixth Generation’, a group of filmmakers who mostly graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in the late 1980s and proceeded to make films on the subject of their nation’s urban fabric. These are films which utilise city narrative to comment on social–economic change, but largely observe such conditions, rather than to take apolitical stance. To explore the urban representation of the Sixth Generation, this article will provide analysis of three works that depict life in top-tier or second-tier mainland China cities: Biandan, guniang/So Close to Paradise (1999), Suzhou he/Suzhou River (2000) and Xiari nuanyangyang/I Love Beijing (2001). The manner in which urban space is represented will be considered, alongside the social positioning of the characters, in order to address arguments made by scholars that these films focus on the plight of the individual rather than considering the wider implications of urban planning.

Read full article on Wiley online library (restricted access or purchase options)

  1. School of Liberal Arts, Nanjing University, China

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Sustainable Stockholm, Europe’s greenest city

Metzger, Jonathan and Olsson Amy Rader eds. (2014) Sustainable Stockholm: exploring urban sustainability in Europe’s greenest city. Routledge, 2014. 248 p.

Sustainable Stockholm provides a historical overview of Stockholm’s environmental development, and also discusses a number of cross-disciplinary themes presenting the urban sustainability work behind Stockholm’s unique position, and importantly the question of how well Stockholm’s practices can be exported and transposed to other places and contexts.

By using the case of Stockholm as the pivot of discussions, Sustainable Stockholm investigates the core issues of sustainable urban environmental development and planning, in all their entanglements. The book shows how intersecting fields such as urban planning and architecture, traffic planning, land-use regulation, building, waste management, regional development, water management, infrastructure engineering—together and in combination—have contributed to making Stockholm Europe’s “greenest” city.

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Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Wuxi: a low carbon future city?

Dienst, Carmen; Schneider, Clemens; Xia, Chun; Saurat, Mathieu; Fischer, Thomas; Vallentin, Daniel (2013) On track to become a low carbon future city? First findings of the integrated status quo and trends assessment of the pilot city of Wuxi in China. Sustainability. 5 (8) pp.3224-3243. doi:10.3390/su5083224

The Low Carbon Future Cities (LCFC) project aims at facing a three dimensional challenge by developing an integrated city roadmap balancing: low carbon development, gains in resource efficiency and adaptation to climate change. The paper gives an overview of the first outcomes of the analysis of the status quo and assessment of the most likely developments regarding GHG emissions, climate impacts and resource use in Wuxi—the Chinese pilot city for the LCFC project. As a first step, a detailed emission inventory following the IPCC guidelines for Wuxi has been carried out. In a second step, the future development of energy demand and related CO2 emissions in 2050 were simulated in a current policy scenario (CPS). In parallel, selected aspects of material and water flows for the energy and the building sector were analyzed and modeled. In addition, recent and future climate impacts and vulnerability were investigated. Based on these findings, nine key sectors with high relevance to the three dimensions could be identified. Although Wuxi’s government has started a path to implement a low carbon plan, the first results show that, for the shift towards a sustainable low carbon development, more ambitious steps need to be taken in order to overcome the challenges faced.

More about authors and downloading full-text PDF (free access)

 

 

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Ren-Urban China

Urban China

Ren, Xuefei. (2013) Urban China. Cambridge : Polity Press. 218 p (China today).

Ren Xuefei is assistant professor of sociology and global urban studies at Michigan State University.

Description

Currently there are more than 125 Chinese cities with a population exceeding one million. The Ren Xuefei - Urban Chinaunprecedented urban growth in China presents a crucial development for studies on globalization and urban transformation. This book examines the past trajectories, present conditions, and future prospects of Chinese urbanization, by investigating five key themes – governance, migration, landscape, inequality, and cultural economy.

Based on a comprehensive evaluation of the literature and original research materials, Ren offers a critical account of the Chinese urban condition after the first decade of the twenty-first century. She argues that the urban-rural dichotomy that was artificially constructed under socialism is no longer a meaningful lens for analyses and that Chinese cities have become strategic sites for reassembling citizenship rights for both urban residents and rural migrants.

For students and scholars of urban and development studies with a focus on China, and all interested in understanding the relationship between state, capitalism, and urbanization in the global context.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1 China Urbanized
  • Chapter 2 Governance
  • Chapter 3 Landscape
  • Chapter 4 Migration
  • Chapter 5 Inequality
  • Chapter 6 Cultural Economy
  • Conclusion

 Publisher’s website

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Contesting urban sustainabilities in China

Pow, C.P. and Neo, Harvey. (2013) Seeing red over green: contesting urban sustainabilities in China. Urban Studies. Prepublished March, 14, 2013, DOI: 10.1177/0042098013478239

Abstract

The urban sustainability agenda is engaged at some levels with the two concepts of ecological modernisation and urban entrepreneurialism. While they share certain important commonalities (for example, the emphasis on what is normatively understood as ‘right’ policy-making), each has largely progressed on its own intellectual trajectory. It is suggested that the concepts of ecological modernisation and urban entrepreneurialism are crystallised and concretised in the idea(l) form of the ‘eco-city’ through the search for an ‘urban sustainability fix’ in urban China. Although the idea of constructing an ‘eco-city’ has been mooted since the 1980s, the concept remains somewhat elusive and controversial for a number of reasons. First, while its physical form and design appeal have often been promoted by urban planners, architects and government officials, the deeper normative tenets of building an eco-city are surprisingly ignored. Secondly, the lack of an ‘actually existing’ or successfully implemented eco-city project suggests the considerable amount of resistance and difficulties (in terms of planning, politics, economic costs, etc.) that the concept encounters in practice. To that end, the paper examines various green urban initiatives in reform China before focusing on the example of Shanghai’s Dongtan eco-city project (an entrepreneurial urban prestige-project jointly developed by the British and Chinese governments) to examine the challenges and contradictions of an urban sustainability fix in the guise of eco-city building in China.

Read the full article on SAGE Journals Online (restricted access)

  • Choo-Piew Pow, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore
  • Harvey Neo, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Chinese eco-cities: a perspective of land-speculation-oriented local entrepreneurialism

Chien, Shiuh-Shen. (2013) Chinese eco-cities: a perspective of land-speculation-oriented local entrepreneurialism. China information, 27, pp 173-196.

 Abstract

This article aims to critically review the recent phenomenon of eco-cities in China which has captured the attention of the city authorities since the 2000s. At the time of writing, more than 200 eco-city projects have been proposed, are under construction, or have even been partly or fully implemented. Many of these eco-cities are not retro-fitted development plans in the downtown areas but are new large-scale land development projects on the outskirts of municipalities. The impetus behind the current Chinese ‘new-town-style’ eco-cities can be viewed as the third round of post-Mao land development isomorphism. The first – development zones – took place in the 1980s, and the second – college towns – started from the late 1990s. In the post-Mao context, Chinese local entrepreneurialism, which is characterized by (1) inter-scalar strategies to formally and informally pursue projects and (2) novel discourses that seek to legitimize projects, is actually motivated by land finance. Therefore, Chinese eco-cities driven by land-speculation-oriented local entrepreneurialism are very likely to be yet another manifestation of spatial development fervour, which contributes to further local extra-budgetary revenue and generates social conflict as opposed to sustainable development.

Read full text on Sage Journals online (restricted access)

 

 

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Urban history and urban development in China

Xue, Qian. 2013, March 8. Urban history : a knowledge base for urban development.
http://www.csstoday.net/ywpd/News/52897.html (accessed 9 July 2013).

 Starting from 2013, the Hangzhou Cultural and Historical Research Association will embark on a five year Wuhan Changjiang Bridge, 1957project investigating various aspects of the city’s history, including industrial development, urban construction, transportation development, etc. It is expected to provide knowledge and referential experience for current urban development.

Since the 1980s, China’s rapid urbanization has drawn more and more scholars toward the study of urban history; research on Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Wuhan has achieved significant results.

Chinese urban history studies grow fast

According to incomplete statistics, during the period from 1979 to 2010, publications on Chinese urban history totaled more than 2,000 volumes.
Professor Li Changli at the Institute of Modern History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,  said that in the past 20 or more years, the urban development in China has inspired many new topics and subfields among urban historian. Research in the area is blossoming. Particularly in recent years, publications of Chinese urban history have seen greater serialization, covered a broader range of issues and reached a more international audience.

Urban history is a branch of history.  It originated in the 1920s in the west and saw a revival in the 1960s; till 1980s, the subject had only gradually drawn attention from Chinese academia. He Yimin, vice president of the Chinese Urban History Association and director of the Institute of Urban Studies at Sichuan University, noted that China’s social development, urbanization, industrialization and modernization are the driving forces of Urban History Studies. Scholars often take major emerging cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Wuhan as original research subjects; today, their research is developing quickly.

Read more on Social Sciences in China Press

 

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Anhui Yellow Mountain New Countryside Demonstration Project

World Bank. (2013) Environmental management plan for Huangshan. Vol. 6 of China – Anhui Yellow Mountain New Countryside Demonstration Project : environmental assessment . s.l.] ; [s.n.]
http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/06/17991582/china-anhui-yellow-mountain-new-countryside-demonstration-project-environmental-assessment-vol-6-6-environmental-management-plan-huangshan (accessed 12 July 2013).

Abstract

The objectives of the Anhui Yellow Mountain New Countryside Demonstration Project for China are to: (i) submit Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project to the environmental protection departments of corresponding levels and World Bank (WB) respectively, which should be consistent with their respective regulatory requirements. (ii) assist Project Management Office (PMO) in the preparation of all components required in the environmental assessment process of WB (e.g., consultation with affected persons, information disclosure, etc.); and (iii) conduct due diligence according to the relevant requirements of WB for the project or related activities. Negative impacts include: solid waste, traffic, water pollution, noise pollution, health problems, and poor drainage. Mitigation measures include: (1) disposing domestic garbage of construction work by environmental protection department; (2) planning new construction road for connecting road between local village and remote villages; (3) supervising the dietetic hygiene to avoid poisoning accident; (4) clearing up and renovating land after the completion of construction; (5) providing sewage disposal facilities; (6) carrying out labor protection measures of builders and the builders should wear dust mask; and (7) prohibiting construction work during night to avoid noise pollution.

 

 

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Green growth in Stockholm, Sweden

OECD. (2013) Green growth in Stockholm, Sweden. Paris : OECD Publishing. (OECD Green Growth Studies) DOI: 10.1787/9789264195158-en

 This report studies green growth trends, challenges and opportunities in the City of Stockholm, Sweden. It first analyses socio-economic trends and the environmental performance of the city and the county of Stockholm; then it reviews urban policies for land use, transport, buildings, waste, energy and water that contribute to economic growth and reduce pressure on the environment; thirdly assesses Stockholm’s green innovation potential in areas such as cleantech, ICT and university to business linkages; and finally it examines local, regional and national institutions, including horizontal and vertical coordination mechanisms that strengthen cross-sectoral and multilevel govenance for green growth.

Table of contents

  • Foreword and acknowledgements
  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Executive summary
  • Economic and environmental trends in Stockholm
  • Policies to further promote green growth in Stockholm
  • Green innovation in Stockholm
  • Governance of green growth in Stockholm

Read the full text on OECD Publishing Read

Downloadable version accessible to subscribers on the OECD iLibrary or to be purchased from the OECD Online Bookshop

Monique Abud

Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Bus Rapid Transit: a step toward fairness in China’s urban transportation

Source : Worldwatch Institute

Rush hour is usually a nightmare for Beijing’s bus commuters. Squeezed from all sides, riders endure polluted air and chilly winter winds that seep in through gaps in the windows, or suffer en masse in the scorching summer sun. They look down in envy at their fellow residents, zipping through the paralyzed traffic in tiny sedans and enjoying much-coveted air conditioning and personal space. But with the opening of Beijing’s first exclusive Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line on December 30, car owners may soon be jealous of bus riders for the first time ever.

The new 18-meter-long BRT buses.
The new 18-meter-long BRT buses.

The 16-kilometer, 17-stop route, dubbed “Southern Axis BRT Line One,” links eight residential areas, with a total population of 200,000, and four bustling commercial circles in the city’s southern districts. In its two months in service it has attracted overwhelming ridership, with daily passenger flows averaging around 80,000 commuters. Officials originally expected the peak flow—estimated at around 150,000 passengers per day—to occur in 2007, but on the third day of operation, ridership already neared 130,000. “It’s very likely the flow will exceed 150,000 during the golden week of the Labor Day,” noted Yan Yabin, Vice President of Beijing BRT Company, Ltd., which manages the line, referring to the seven-day holiday in early May when Beijing sees a huge influx of tourists and commercial activity.

Bus Rapid Transit, the term for a high-speed bus system that operates within an exclusive right-of-way, was first developed in Brazil in the 1970s. But it has quietly taken hold in China, where more than 20 cities, including Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdou, and Shenyang, are now constructing or designing BRT systems. BRT combines the single-corridor quality of rail transit with the flexibility of buses. It is also considerably cheaper than rail, at one-tenth the construction and operational costs, and takes less time to set up—typically less than three years from design to completion.

Beijing BRT Company currently operates more than 40 buses and is expecting another 50 by April, bringing the total fleet to 90. According to Yan, the major attraction of the new line is that it is convenient, cheap, comfortable, and fast—taking 37 minutes to complete what is usually a one-hour journey. The 18-meter buses are equipped with an electronic stop announcement system and air conditioning, which most regular city buses don’t have. And the buses’ low entry step allows access for wheelchairs, a feature that Beijing only recently began incorporating into city transport. “We are trying to make BRT into ‘luxurious sedans for common residents,'” Yan proclaimed, expressing his pride and confidence in the new system.

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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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