In Fuzhou, the capital of southern China’s Fujian Province, signs of China’s fast-paced urbanization are easily spotted: the city’s first subway line under construction, traffic congestion during peak hours, and people crammed into buses.
Today, more than 660 million people in China live in cities, and 13 million more pour in every year. Building smart transport systems in cities is instrumental in accommodating the rising needs of the rapidly-growing urban population, experts say.
But in most Chinese cities, like elsewhere in the developing world, city planners and managers tend to do urban transport planning in a piecemeal fashion, which has not been very effective – while the intent is to improve traffic flow, only building flyovers and widening roads could lead to an increase in traffic and congestion in the long run; and high costs of rail mass transit system may limit their extent and coverage.
A World Bank program tries to help them adopt a comprehensive and integrated approach to urban transport issues.
"Urban transport is complex - it is more than just technologies. You need to consider a whole lot of issues: affordability, cultural and environment issues, local politics, energy issues, financing. You also need to look at the needs of women, older people, children,” said O.P. Argawal, Urban Transport Advisor, the World Bank.
"If you ask me what is the key issue of all these, I think it is the lack of leadership and the lack of courage to understand the complexity of the issues, and professionals that can articulate all of these in a way that can be implemented,” said Jose Luis Irigoyen, Director, Transport, Water and Information Unit, the World Bank.
To fill the gap, the World Bank, together with international and domestic development partners, launched the “Leaders in Urban Transport Planning” program, aiming to develop a more comprehensive understanding of urban transport planning among senior policy makers and planners in cities, provincial governments and national governments.
In January this year, the first international offering of the program took place in Singapore, where over 60 participants from 13 countries participated.
In June, the World Bank’s China Urban Transport team brought the program to China. The first workshop held in Fuzhou drew over 50 participants from 12 cities.