Smart strategies for sustainable transport in Chengdu, China
As the capital city of China’s Sichuan province and an economic and transport hub in the region, Chengdu is central to the country’s Western Development Strategy—a regional development plan to boost economic productivity in China’s western provinces. Like many cities in China, Chengdu is growing at an unprecedented pace. With an urbanization rate of 60.2 percent in 2012 and the eighth largest GDP in the country, Chengdu is looking to revise its transport demand management (TDM) policy, a set of strategies for curbing car usage and making the city’s transport network more efficient and sustainable. These strategies are key to addressing the challenges presented by rapid urban growth, particularly traffic congestion and air pollution.
Chengdu’s growth and development is also an opportunity to put the city on a sustainable path, and EMBARQ China and WRI China are working with city leaders to identify ways to improve Chengdu’s current transport demand management policies. Drawing on international best practices, WRI China recently launched Smart Strategies for Private Vehicle Ownership and Usage in Chengdu, one of five working papers released as part of the Sustainable and Livable Cities Project. The report includes policy recommendations for regulating and managing car usage, achieving economic prosperity with mass transport, and ensuring sustainable urban planning in the future.
Supporting public transport to combat rising car culture
With 2.1 million registered vehicles in 2012—the second highest of all Chinese cities—Chengdu’s rate of car ownership has soared. To counteract this alarming trend, the working paper suggests a series of administrative regulations, such as a cap on the number of new license plates issued for cars, an increase in parking fees, a tax on congestion emissions, and a driving limit based on even-odd plate numbers.
Many residents still strongly prefer private vehicles to mass transport, with the share of transport ridership shrinking in recent years. Drawing on lessons from Singapore, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, the working paper urges the city to increase funding for public transport services in order to discourage reliance on private vehicles. In order to meet mobility demand—the report advises—mass transport should account for 45 to 60 percent of all trips in the city.
Lastly, the Chengdu report emphasizes the fundamental role of sustainable urban planning and financing to solve specific transport problems. By improving transport systems, the city can shift preferences for car usage and encourage more sustainable modes like walking and cycling. Integrating mass transport modes like metro or bus rapid transit (BRT) into an efficient transport network will require coordination across sectors and strong leadership from city government, but the result will be a city that is more efficient, clean, and prosperous.
Beyond TDM: fighting traffic congestion and air pollution
Intense traffic congestion and air pollution are two of the most extreme side effects of Chengdu’s recent rise in car ownership. To help the municipal government deal with the pressing environmental issues generated by an inefficient transport network, WRI China is developing tools for measuring transport emissions and assessing social impact. Aimed at providing comprehensive, smart transport solutions for the city, the tools will collect on-the-ground data and provide a framework for sustainable development throughout China.