Prospect of the Transit-Oriented Development in China

By Chen, Xueming | Management Research and Practice, March 2010 | Go to article overview

Prospect of the Transit-Oriented Development in China


Chen, Xueming, Management Research and Practice


1. INTRODUCTION

China is the most populous country in the world with more than 1.3 billion population. In 2009, the total number of Chinese cities has reached 655, of which 53 super-large cities have more than 1 million nonagricultural population.

In contemporary China, rail is playing an instrumental role in carrying a large number of passengers and relieving traffic congestion in urban areas. Compared to other transit modes, rail has obvious advantages in its large carrying capacity, fast speed, reliability, safety, and energy conservation. In the meantime, it is also characterized by its high construction cost, long construction period, and significant environmental impacts. At present, about 10 Chinese cities have subways or heavy rail transit systems either in operation or under construction. Several cities also have light-rail transit systems. In addition to rail, bus rapid transit (BRT) is becoming more and more important in China because of its large carrying capacity, low construction cost, short construction period, and less environmental impacts. Many Chinese cities have implemented BRT projects.

In view of the above situations, transit-oriented development (TOD) is bound to be a natural choice for China, because this is a relatively resource-poor country with per capita land and resource ownership rate much lower than the world average. In fact, prioritized development of public transit has become China's national transportation policy. Because of this reason, the TOD research has been rapidly surging in China during the past decade with many TOD-related books and journal articles published .

Nevertheless, TOD is a foreign-born concept initially invented in the U.S. In transferring and applying this American planning concept to China, we still need to be cautious and selective. This paper first reviews the TOD concept in the U.S. It then introduces the different schools of thoughts on TOD among American researchers. Thirdly, the paper compares and highlights the differences between the U.S. and China, which have important implications on the transferability and applicability of TOD concept to China. Finally, it makes a series of improvement recommendations. A concluding section summarizes research findings.

2. TOD CONCEPT AND 5D PRINCIPLES

2.1. TOD Concept

In 1993, Peter Calthorpe, the noted American urban designer and new urbanist, proposed the TOD concept. TOD refers to the high-density and mixed-use land development centering on a transit station, typically rail station. From 1993 to present, a myriad of studies and practices have been completed throughout the U.S., which are well documented and researched by the publications of the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) under the Transportation Research Board (TRB), National Research Council.

Throughout the U.S., the most important type of TOD is rail TOD (RTOD), followed by bus TOD (BTOD). In 2002, based on their nationwide survey of more than 100 TOD projects in the country, Cervero et al. (2004) found the following composition of TOD projects: Subway TOD (37.4%), Light Rail TOD (31.3%), Commuter Rail TOD (21.8%), bus TOD (7.8%), ferry TOD (1.7%). Therefore, more than 90% of the TODs in the U.S. are located in the vicinity of large-capacity rail stations. Since rail station has its strong image, permanency, and fixity, it appeals more to potential investors. In contrast, bus stop lacks a strong image, permanency, and fixity, thus attracting less investment and development activities. Because of these reasons, there are few BTOD projects.

2.25. Principles of TOD

The 5D principles of TOD generally recognized by the American planning community are: Density, Distance, Diversity, Design, and Destination Accessibility. Any TOD projects properly following these 5D principles are expected to be successful.

2.2.1. Density

TOD intends to increase land use density at pivotal locations and curb urban sprawl. …

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