Transportation Supply and Constraint Trends

This influencing area focuses on the supply of transportation, as well as constraints on vehicle ownership and driving, particularly government-enacted constraints. We focused on three broad areas: constraints on vehicle ownership and driving; nonautomobile modes of transportation; and issues specific to urban areas, including parking, availability of taxis and ride-sharing, and nonmotorized infrastructure. We could not identify national trend data for any of these areas. For the more city-specific descriptors, our background information considered conditions in four cities of different sizes: Beijing (18.8 million people), Chengdu (7.4 million), Taiyuan (4.2 million), and Jiyuan (670,000).16 Given the lack of existing data, our background information was qualitative and, in some cases, anecdotal, rather than quantitative.

Constraints on Driving and Vehicle Ownership

The main constraints on driving are financial: Gas is relatively expensive compared with average incomes (Randall, 2013), and most intercity roads are tolled (Reja, Amos, and Hongye, 2013). Several large cities have considered road pricing, but none has yet implemented it ("Shanghai Studies Traffic Congestion Charge to Control Pollution," 2013; Bai, 2013). Beijing and Guangzhou have both experimented with regulatory restrictions, specifically odd-even restrictions (that is, only vehicles with odd-numbered license plates can drive in certain areas on certain days), but none of these applies to all areas of the city. Several restrictions have been used sporadically, such as during times of serious air pollution, during winter months, or around special events, such as party congresses, the 2008 Olympics, or major international conferences ("Beijing to Impose Odd-Even Car Ban During Heavy Pollution," 2013; Qiu, 2010; Xue and Xu, 2013).

Similarly, constraints on vehicle ownership are mostly financial. Car ownership carries insurance requirements (Ping An Insurance [Group] Company of China, undated) and various taxes: a consumption tax based on engine displacement, a value-added tax, and a purchase tax, with an additional levy of 25 percent on imported cars ("China Signals Clampdown on Foreign Car Makers," 2013). At least four large cities control vehicle ownership through limiting the number of license plates available, either through lottery or auction. Those cities with auctions (including Shanghai and Guangzhou) charge an additional fee as well (Yu, 2013; "Shanghai Car Plate Auction Hits New High," 2012; "Shanghai Puts Cap on License Plates," 2013; "Guangzhou to Allocate New Car Plates Through Auction," 2012).

Public Transit, Interurban Rail, and Domestic Air

Many Chinese cities provide both bus and rail transit. Whereas, a decade ago, only major cities had urban rail systems, several dozen urban areas now either have such systems in place or are in the process of planning and building them. By 2012, 270 km (167.8 miles) were being added annually ("China to Restore Confidence in High-Speed Trains," 2012). Fares are generally considered affordable. Bus rapid transit (BRT) has been built in more than a dozen cities (Zeng, 2013).

The main focus in interurban rail in the past decade has been high-speed rail (HSR). The country had no HSR in 2007; by 2013, it had more than 10,000 km (6,213.7 miles) ("High-Speed Railways," 2013). The HSR network currently reaches more than 100 cities and carries more than 2 million people daily, or roughly one-third of China's total rail traffic ("High-Speed Railways," 2013). HSR already transports nearly twice as many passengers as the country's domestic airline industry does (Bradsher, 2013).

Domestic air travel has risen steadily in the past decade, from 87 million trips in 2003 to 354 million in 2012. In all but two years, annual growth has exceeded 5 percent. Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have by far the busiest airports in China, measured in both passenger traffic and flights (together, they account for almost one-third of all passengers in China), but growth is highest in western Chinese airports (Civil Aviation Administration of China, 2013; CAPA Centre for Aviation, 2013).

Parking, Taxis and Car-Sharing, and Nonmotorized Infrastructure

In all but the smaller cities, parking is a major problem. Most cities have far more vehicles registered than legal parking spaces, and, anecdotally, attempts to build more parking are not keeping up with demand. One result is high levels of illegal parking, part of which is likely caused by low fines. In Beijing, for example, although the police issue more than 5,000 illegal parking tickets per day, the fine is only CNY 200 (about USD 32) and no points are deducted from the driver's license (Beijing Evening News, 2013; Beijing Bureau of Transportation Management, undated). A second result is high costs for legal spaces; in Taiyuan, a parking space in some residential areas can cost as much as CNY 100,000 (USD 16,150), which is about the cost of a car (Taiyuan Daily, 2014).

Taxis are already in widespread use, although many taxis operate illegally (in Beijing, for example, illegal taxis outnumber the 66,000 official taxis ["Beijing Taxi Troubles Tackled in CASS Report," 2012; Xinhua News, 2014]). Mobile apps to summon taxis are spreading quickly (Custer, 2013; Millward, 2013). Car-sharing began in China only in the past few years, but there are already various types of systems in place, including peer-to-peer car-sharing (Prabu, 2013) and car-sharing with an all-EV fleet (Rogowsky, 2013; China Jiangsu Online, 2013).

More information was available about bicycling infrastructure than for walking. All four cities have introduced bicycle-sharing systems (China Daily, 2013; China Daily, 2010; Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China, 2012b; Henan Provincial Department of Transportation, 2013), and Beijing has developed new regulations and guidelines to encourage bicycling (for example, by banning parking in bicycle lanes and incorporating bicycles into transportation planning) (China Daily, 2013). The cities are also expanding greenway systems that allow both bicycling and walking (Chengdu Business News, 2010; Taiyuan News, 2013).

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