Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Solving Congestion Problems in China’s Biggest Cities

 A big reason Beijing is polluted: The average car goes 7.5 miles per hour( Gwynn Guilford, Quartz, Jan. 3, 2014)

Also discussed here: China's Urban Nightmare: Gridlock(The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 2, 2014) Also here: Spatial and Social Characteristics of Urban Transportation in Beijing(9 page pdf, Jiawen Yang, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board,2010)

Today we review a report that compares the degree of traffic congestion in Beijing and Wuhan with large western cities that have similar trends on the growth of car ownership (and urban road building) with GDP and with the degree to which congestion has strangled traffic flows to a point where drivers in Beijing average only 12 kph. Interesting that Wuhan implemented a congestion pricing system in 2011 while more progressive cities such as New York City have failed to proceed with it as one of the most effective ways of reducing urban congestion.

Also interesting that Beijing’s twin city in Canada shares an almost identical ratio of km road lanes to urban area (of about 3-4 to 1), an indicator of poor urban transportation design (Ottawa also lacks modern Light Rail Transit, depending only on buses and planning to get a basic LRT system in the next 10-15 years).

  road density  

Key Quotes:

“The increase in automobile ownership in relation to the growth in China’s gross domestic product is similar to that in the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Germany.”

“Beijing and the southern boomtown of Shenzhen were second only to Mexico City in terms of commuter misery…Beijing hosts more than 10 million residents at its core built-up area, which is served by the five ring roads and other connecting roads.”

“about two years ago Wuhan became the first Chinese city to charge electronic tolls to reach its bustling downtown area, joining more-global cities such as London and Singapore.”

“Wuhan introduced its electronic toll-collecting system in 2011. It uses a transponder people carry in their cars, enabling their accounts to be automatically charged. The system charges at least eight yuan (about $1.30) for every use of the bridges and the tunnel. Alternatively, they can buy an annual card for unlimited usage. Bus and taxi drivers are charged 500 yuan a year, while private individual drivers pay 2,400 yuan.”

“premature death caused by traffic congestion will cost the US at least $13 billion in 2020 and $17 billion by 2030, in 2007 dollars. And that toll is clearly higher in cities like Los Angeles, where cars are de rigeur. LA incurred more than $3 billion in pollution-related mortality costs in 2010—much greater than Boston’s $125-or-so million,”
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