Shanghai – bursting at the seams.


Photos: more fantastic photos of today’s Shanghai here.

The BBC has produced a report on the growth of Shanghai over the last 15 years. The city expanded 6 times its 1990 area to accommodate todays 21.5m people, up from 13.5m. I was in Shanghai in 1990 and found even then a continuous rush hour very challenging. The city has also seen an explosion in car ownership, with over 1 million car owners in 2006, and private car ownership has doubled in two years.

Despite its size, Shanghai is still much more densely populated than Western cities, with four times more people per square kilometre than New York. Shanghai’s planners want to limit population growth in the centre by building satellite towns in the outskirts. Under Shanghai’s “One City – Nine Towns” plan, Shanghai is planning nine new cities which will eventually house 500,000 people each. Thamestown, which opened in October 2006, has themed pubs and Tudor-looking architecture concealing high-rise blocks.

Shanghai has made it expensive to own a car in the city. The city sets a strict limit on the number of licenses it will issue for private car ownership – currently around 80,000 per year – and then auctions them off. With the high demand for cars, the current cost of getting a car license in Shanghai is over 40,000 RMB ($5,500; £2,750). However, a significant factor in Shanghai is the use of cars – and minivans – by private businesses. Over half of all cars in Shanghai are owned by companies – who are less sensitive to financial constraints.

Despite the spread of car ownership, two-thirds of private journeys in Shanghai are by two-wheeled vehicles such as bicycles and scooters. Huge investment into Shanghai’s metro system could mean it’ll be more extensive than even Londons underground system, currently the largest in the world.

Read more of this excellent article here.

Some ideas for Mr Livingston to mull over I presume.

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4 Responses to Shanghai – bursting at the seams.

  1. earthpal says:

    Great pictures Matt. What a city!

    The UK could follow some transport examples from them. We’ve reached total gridlock here.

    Talking of cycling as a means of transport, my friend recently visited Denmark and she said it’s amazng how everyone cycles. The network of cycle lanes is huge. Men cycle to work in their suits, mums cycle with baby/child trailers….and there’s not a fat person to be seen.

    I suppose it helps with the country being so flat.

  2. matt says:

    Those pictures are a real find. Power of the internet!

    Shanghai is ‘future city’. It’s going to be like nothing else the world has ever seen. Our kid’s kids will know Shanghai more than New York. I hope they get their city planning right. They’re making some bold moves. The car licensing lottery sounds very Gordon Brown (3G mobile licenses auction).

    Haven’t been to Denmark but imagine the cycling culture is similar to the Netherlands …. full on!

    I’ll never forget cycling in Beijing …. like a swarm of bees, except the sound was that of the incessant ringing of bells!

  3. kerry scott says:

    I lived in Shanghai for a year a couple of years ago. I returned from a holiday there two days ago. What I saw shocked me. Sure there a few more buildings, a few more metros opened and there seem to be more people (and foreigners) than ever. What really hit home though was the pollution explosion in the last 9 months.

    I couldn’t walk down a street without my eyes getting hit with dust. The water in one district turned blue for a day, my best friend is losing his hair, and his boss who went into the river for dare lost all his hair the next day. I had a chronic cough for the two weeks I was there, and another friend is leaving the city as he is getting asthma from the pollution. The government won’t report the extent of the problem.

    Sure, a great city… but at what cost? People will look back and probably say ‘shame about the people who lived there while the city was growing at the expense of everything else’

  4. matt says:

    Kerry. Great to hear from someone who has very recent experience of the city. I had read on someone’s Shanghai blog of the pollution problem. I agree, they will have to sort water, air and waste problems out to become a respected and attractive city.

    Here’s some survey results from expatriates working in China about China’s work and living environment;

    For respondents living in Shanghai, 32% say that Shanghai’s traffic has stayed the same or worsened since they came to work in Shanghai, down by 8%. 76% say that Shanghai’s pollution has stayed the same or worsened since they first came to the city for work, up from 72% last year.

    Overall, when asked to list the biggest problems they faced in China, pollution was ranked first, followed by traffic, sanitation, noise, and crowds, respectively.

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