Rapid Urbanization: Navigating Mobility Issues in Megacities
As the largest city in China with a population of over 24 million residents, Shanghai is also the country’s largest financial centre due in part to the fact that it also houses the world’s busiest container port. As a result of the city’s rapid economic growth, rapid urbanization has followed, as citizens have sought better opportunities and emigrated from rural areas in search of long-term employment in Shanghai.
Although Shanghai boasts the most comprehensive and longest metro network in the world, the desire to drive a private vehicle remains high among residents of this megacity, because car ownership is seen as status of wealth. The current road and transportation infrastructure in Shanghai, however, has been unable to keep up with the demands of a growing population hungry for car ownership, causing severe mobility and traffic congestion issues for residents.
What’s more, the causes of traffic congestion in Shanghai aren’t limited to the desire for private vehicle ownership – in fact, frequent congestion on roads, crowded Metro trains during peak hours, low efficiency and transfer problems on the bus network, as well as dead-end roads and poor transportation planning have been stated by government officials as factors to blame for mobility problems.
That said, city officials have implemented several policy instruments to alleviate some of the pressure on Shanghai’s roads, with some success. Shanghai is now the 28th most congested in the world, according to TomTom’s 2016 Traffic Index compared to 26th in the year 2013.
Reducing traffic congestion would address various targets set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to improve air quality, a major health problem in most megacities.