World Resources Institute and EMBARQ China build partnership for sustainable urban transport in Jinan
On March 4, 2014, Holger Dalkmann, Director of EMBARQ, together with WRI China’s Director Lailai Li and EMBARQ China’s Director Haitao Zhang, met with Xinwen Wang, Deputy Mayor of Jinan, to strengthen the relationship between the World Resources Institute (WRI), EMBARQ China, and the city of Jinan, which is home to 6.8 million people.
There are many challenges for developing sustainable transport infrastructure in Jinan, and as the city’s population grows, these challenges will only become more urgent. The city has already doubled in size in the past decade, while infrastructure has struggled to keep pace. Rapid economic growth has spurred an increase in households that can afford private automobiles, and car ownership now increases by 200,000 each year. As a result, Jinan’s roads are more congested and its citizens spend more time stuck in traffic than they did even five years ago.
In 2012, Jinan was selected as one of the first batch of 15 cities by the Ministry of Transport of China (MOT) to carry out the national “Transit Metropolis” pilot project, which aims to ease traffic jams by improving public transport services in China’s cities. Currently, only about 25% of trips are made by public transport in Jinan, which is significantly less than the goal of 40% of mass transport mode share set by the “Transit Metropolis” program.
Added to the issue of increased car ownership, the city is built on top of a network of natural springs, which means that building an underground metro is not an option in many parts of the city. Instead, city transport officials have built an extensive bus rapid transit (BRT) network. Jinan’s BRT system is one of the largest in China, boasting four corridors and serving 220,000 people each day. Still, this ridership level is less than 6% of the population. In addition, the BRT system is faced with many operational challenges, including long waiting times at intersections and lack of integration with the regular bus system and non-motorized transport modes. EMBARQ China and Jinan are working together to further optimize and grow the city’s bus transit and BRT system, expanding sustainable mobility options and easing congestion in the bustling city center.
Setting the stage for collaboration
Last month’s meeting, which also included officials from the Jinan Transport Bureau and the Jinan Urban Transport Center, laid the foundation for further collaboration between EMBARQ China and the government of Jinan. Mayor Wang indicated that Jinan’s challenges in the areas of urban planning, transport development, and improvements to public transport have driven city leaders to look beyond the city limits for solutions. Wang spoke about several challenges towards sustainable development, including the need for:
- Public education on the available choices for sustainable transport modes
- Greater efficiency on public transport modes to attract more demand
- Greater development of the non-motorized components of the transport system, particularly biking and walking
- Expansion of the BRT system due to the limitation in metro development
- Improvement of urban layout to help with integration of transport modes
- Improvement in both the management and service on public transport
To find the solution to these numerous problems, Dalkmann declared that “the city will look to EMBARQ China’s expertise in these areas and a broad range of experiences and lessons from across the EMBARQ Network to find measures that will suit Jinan’s unique needs.” Specifically, Dalkmann suggested the following ways to support the sustainable development in Jinan:
- Host a workshop to discuss urban and transportation development, especially focusing on transit systems. These workshops would include high-level officials from international cities with good transport development and NMT systems to promote high-level dialogue.
- Invite Mayor Wang and/or officials from Jinan Transport Bureau to the 2015 Transforming Transportation conference to share successful experiences in urban transit planning, design and management with Jinan.
- Invite experts with international experience on the policy and guideline setup, strategic planning, system design, and management of urban transport systems to exchange knowledge and share experiences.
EMBARQ China will continue to aid Jinan’s sustainable development through technical support and policy advising on sustainable public transport. In addition, the two will work together to develop a platform for high-level official dialogue and knowledge exchange with international experts around sustainable transport and urban development. This will help position Jinan as a leader for sustainable transport in China.
Following the meeting, the EMBARQ China team and Dario Hidalgo, the Director of Research and Practice for EMBARQ, conducted a field survey on Jinan‘s public transport system, focusing on its BRT network, and identified weaknesses in the system‘s design and operation. To help Jinan improve the efficiency of its BRT network, EMBARQ China is currently working closely with the Jinan Urban Transport Research Center on signal timing optimization to reduce BRT operation delays at intersections. In addition, EMBARQ China will assist on the transit corridor and transit line optimization by using simulations and integrating GPS data from buses and taxis, IC card data, mobile data, and bus passenger ridership in a way that this big data can be harnessed to make the system more enjoyable and efficient for all.