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Shanghai gives priority to rail, bus systems
By Liang Yu (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-06-23 01:13

To ensure effective ways of commuting for its population of nearly 20 million, municipal authorities of Shanghai are giving top priority to buses and rail trains and designating special bicycle lanes while placing less priority on private automobiles. The measures are expected to help reduce the city's traffic burdens.

Traffic officials are in the midst of working out an updated urban transportation development plan to significantly raise the city's public transportation volume in the next five years, the authority said.

Such a plan will echo earlier guidelines issued by the Ministry of Construction that said public transport in such mega cities like Shanghai and Beijing should account for at least 30 per cent of local traffic volume.

A draft of the plan will likely be completed within a month so it can be presented to local policy makers,said Cao Shuo, director of the Policy and Regulation Department of the Shanghai Urban Transport Administrative Bureau.

"We will always highlight the development of public transport (in our planning) since it is necessary for such a densely populated metropolis like Shanghai," said Cao.

"The traffic volume public transport handles will definitely grow in the coming years," said Cao, who nonetheless chose not to specifically forecast the proportion of the community that will likely occupy public transportation in five years.

Latest statistics indicate that public transportation --represented by mass-transit rail facilities and urban bus systems --accounts for about 22.3 per cent of the overall traffic volume in Shanghai. The city is home to more than 17 million residents and about 1.5 million vehicles.

According to a city urban transportation white paper -- unveiled in mid-2002 -- Shanghai will see public transport carry nearly 26 per cent of the local traffic flow by next year,compared with 21 per cent in 2000 and 16 per cent in 1998.

Cao, however, admitted that it will be a tough task for increasing public transportation in the metropolis, given the rapid local traffic growth in recent years.

Many people have voiced complaints about traffic jams, and an everyday passenger flow of nearly 1.2 million on local metro and light-rail lines has resulted in an awful experience for those taking them during rush hours.

Major advantages of an ideal public transport system include convenience, speed, comfort and cost-savings, according to Cao.

A highlight in the anticipated plan may be a study over the feasibility of launching a bus-rapid-transit (BRT) system in Shanghai.

Featuring passage and signal priorities for mass-capacity buses running only on specified paths, such a system has been implemented in foreign countries, with Brazil widely recognized as a successful example, Cao said.

Nationwide, other cities like Beijing are also trying to establish such a system to ease local traffic jams,he said.

Apart from the possibility of establishing a BRT system, Shanghai has been taking pains to solve local problems with an enormous investments.

Last year, the city has pumped in more than 20 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion), a tenth of its total fixed asset investments in local road and subway projects.

The city now has about 82 kilometres of metro and light-rail lines in operation, and the number of local buses has grown from 13,000 in the 1990s to more than 18,000 while a number of large-scale transport-switching hubs like People's Square and Xujiahui have been put into operation.

However, that is hardly enough, especially given the fact that rail transport only accounts for 2 per cent of the local traffic volume, as well as the growing eagerness of locals to have a car of their own, which is expected to result in the appearance of more vehicles on local roads.

"Shanghai's traffic situation in the coming years largely hinges upon the proceeding of local rail transport facilities' construction," said Lin Hangfei, an expert in the Transport Engineering School of Tongji University.

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