China a Model for the Future of Public Transportation

Monday, April 28, 2008 16:48

While living in the United States, I must admit that I knew little about city planning.. and I really didn’t care. I enjoyed driving, and my morning/ evening commute was always an adventure.. .and more than my morning commute, I loved getting out on the open road for a cross country trip.

But that was when I had the time, and gas was only .98USD/ gallon.

However, with 6+ years in China (the last 5 in Shanghai), all I can say is that China for me is a model of what transportation networks in cities – and between cities – should be for the future… and what makes me appreciate Shanghai more and more, is reading article/ posts like the one Jim Kunstler just wrote called Blind Spot on his blog Clusterfuck Nation:

I got a little guided tour of Minneapolis from the author-shlepping service that my publisher engaged. We rode past the old Minneapolis central train station. He said no trains stop there anymore

In other words, this region of the country has next-to-zero railroad service. Can we pause a moment here to ask: exactly how far does America have its head up its ass? Do you get the picture? Can you connect the dots? The airline industry is dying and absolutely no thought is being given to how people will get around this big country — except to make the stupid assumption that we can just drive our cars instead. Even during the several days I was around Minneapolis, no news media or politician raised the subject of reviving passenger railroad service.

In point of fact, these are exactly the kind of trips that would be better served by rail, anyway — the towns that are less than five hundred miles apart. The travel time between trains and planes would be comparable, considering the two hours or so that you have to add to every airplane trip because of all the security crap, not to mention the delays. As a matter of fact, USA today ran a front page story two days after the Delta / Northwest announcement saying “Air Trips Slowest [now than] in Past 20 Years.” Subhead: “Trend likely to persist as congestion worsens.”

Of course, for anyone living in China, who has flown lately knows that China’s recent book has created nearly the same problems… but where China is different is that they see the importance of the rail network (over cars and planes), and rather than let the network fall over on itself financially, they are continuing to invest

As for Kunstler’s views on the American way:

Now get this: we are sleepwalking into a transportation crisis. As I already said, the airline industry is dying. The price of petroleum-based aviation fuel is killing it. And forget the fantasies about running it on bio-diesel or used french-fry oil. Driving cars will not be an adequate substitute, either. It’s imperative that this country gets serious about restoring the passenger rail system. We can’t not talk about it for another year. We must demand that the candidates for president speak to this issue. If you who are reading this are active reporters or editors in the news media, you’ve got to raise your voices behind this issue.

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2 Responses to “China a Model for the Future of Public Transportation”

  1. Paul Cambre says:

    April 29th, 2008 at 7:27 am

    I couldn’t agree more with this post!!!

    In fact, when I do return to the US I am solely looking at places that have at least some form of efficient public transport (mainly subway).

    Related to this post is an article I just read in the Yangtse Evening Post (扬子晚报)dated 4/29/08 that discusses plans for Nanjing to serve as the epicenter of a huge Anhui-Jiangsu city public transportation hub. There will be light rails connecting Yangzhou, Chuzhou and Ma’Anshan to Nanjing public transportation at various Nanjing subway stops. Not only that, the same IC card (public transportation card) will be used in all cities. It doesn’t list cost or travel time but I am impressed with not only the general idea but also the foresight. To think that a second tier city, not your typical Shanghai or Beijing, has such plans for transportation really shows how far behind US cities are on this issue.

  2. Rich says:

    April 29th, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Thanks Paul

    ACtually, I couldn’t agree wouth you more. For me, San Francisco and Portland rank hi on my list (I prefer West coast) because of their ease of transportation and their neighborhood feel (I hated the Phoenix strip mall model…. so depressing).

    My understanding is that it is possible to use Shanghai IC card in Hangzhou and Nanjing.. and I found out last week that it works on the Maglev. At some point, we will be able to go coast to coast on these cards!!!

    and it only helps that Shanghai Port is investing in a lot of the infrastructure.