WRI China and Suzhou Municipal Government Partner Together for Sustainable Urban Mobility
Currently home 4.16 million people, the city of Suzhou in China is growing at such a rapid rate that its economic activity has nearly reached that of first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. However, rapid economic growth has also produced the same mobility challenges—major traffic congestion, pipe-tail emissions, and increased road incidents--that have plagued the first-tier cities. In the past, the city typically focused on expanding roadways in order to drive economic activity and reduce congestion. However, this has only resulted in more car travel. The average travel speed on major arteries during peak hours is now below 20km/h, undermining the city’s productivity and quality of life.
A faster track toward sustainable mobility
As one pilot city of China’s national Transit Metropolis program, Suzhou is positioned to push back on this trend and strike a balance between economic development and sustainability. Our team in China has been a major partner in catalysing this process.
On September 2, 2015 WRI China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Suzhou municipal government to jointly shape a sustainable future for the city. Through this collaboration, our team will assist in urban and transit planning, recommend policies, standards, and regulations, pilot on-the-ground projects, build technical capacity, and broadly support the city in addressing local mobility challenges.
To anticipate challenges and recommend solutions, a one-day Forum on Transit Metropolis Development followed the MOU signing. The conference convened transport experts from around the world to offer possible suggestions on how Suzhou can meet its Transit Metropolis goals.
Identifying and overcoming the city’s mobility challenges
To accommodate the city’s growth while also reducing traffic congestion, the project team and the local government will stake out bold urban transport solutions for Suzhou’s future. One of the major solutions is to improve local transit systems. To accomplish this, Suzhou will develop new dedicated bus lanes and extend existing ones, increase the capacity of bus terminals in newly-developed districts, realign bus routes to feed into the metro system, and improve the accessibility of stations.
Apart from these supply-side measures, the city will also develop demand-side regulations to curtail car ownership and use in Suzhou’s historic core, including differential parking charges, traffic calming, and vehicle restrictions based on license plate numbers. Plus, the city also intends to create park-and-ride sites near suburban transit interchanges to encourage individuals to take public transport in and out of the district.
The way ahead for cities across China
Suzhou is among a host of second-tier Chinese cities currently experiencing rapid economic development yet facing number of opportunities for sustainable development. The city’s choice to prioritize people before cars indicates a strong political determination to balance sustainability goals with economic development. The lessons and experiences taken from Suzhou will help inform our work in other second- and third- tier cities in China.
About EMBARQ at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities
EMBARQ, Sustainable Urban Mobility by WRI, catalyzes and helps implement environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable urban mobility solutions to improve quality of life in cities.