Hyper Motorization in China: Is There No Way Back?

NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management and CUNY Institute for Urban Systems present …

Hyper Motorization in China: Is There No Way Back?

A talk by Dr. Lee Schipper, Director of Research, EMBARQ – The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport.

By any definition, China’s urban transport is becoming less sustainable. Congestion, traffic accidents and fatalities, as well as urban air pollution from the transport sector have all been increasing over the past two decades. For both accidents and pollution, the accidents or emissions per km of many pollutants are falling, but not as rapidly as the total distance traveled is increasing, particularly distance that individual passenger automobiles travel. And the rise of individual motorized vehicles means that more and more pedestrians and cyclists are crowded off city streets.

The speed of China’s motorization is at the root of the problem. China is currently experiencing "hypermotorization" – when the ownership of cars grows so rapidly that the public and private infrastructure required cannot keep pace with private ownership and use of cars. Policies to slow the growth in private vehicle usage must be established quickly to save the cities of China from the present crunch becoming worse. The alternative must be based on a strengthening of bus, rail, and above all non-motorized modes in Chinese cities, cemented by careful land use planning to avoid the sprawl of cities beyond what these modes can usefully share. We offer the example of Hanoi, Vietnam, one of the most motorized cities in the world, where two-wheelers might provide a degree of individual mobility with far less demands on space, fuel, and at lower speeds, theoretically less congestion and fewer fatalities.

This presentation is adapted from the introduction of the forthcoming volume "Urban Transport Options in China: The Challenge to Choose," Lee Schipper and Wei-Shiuen Ng, eds. Sponsored by the Energy Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.

A more detailed abstract of this talk is available via pdf.