Chinese urbanisation leads to big mobility challenges

01 December 2014

The big increase in Chinese urbanisation expected in the coming years, as a result of economic growth, will produce huge challenges to urban transportation, concludes Arthur D. Little in a new report. As the massive increase in urban workers will result in a big increase in motorisation, urban workers will be challenged by congestion, pollution and accessibility of transportation. Hong Kong’s urban mobility system is ranked number one of the world, together with Shanghai’s – ranked number 13, could constitute a sources of inspiration for other cities across the country as the country tries to encounter its future mobility challenges.

Global management consulting firm Arthur D. Little recently released a new report of its Future of Urban Mobility (FUM) Lab* focusing on China and its mobility challenges: ‘Strategic Directions and Ecosystems to Address China’s Urban Mobility Challenges’. The report is part of the ‘Future of Urban Mobility 2.0’ research series and released for the 2014 edition of the Michelin Challenge Bibendum of which the firm is knowledge partner.

Arthur D Little - China mobility report

The report shows that over the past 10 year, China has experienced a steep increase in urbanisation, with the urbanisation rate increasing from 26% in 1990 to 54% in 2014. The researchers expect this rate to even further increase to 69% in 2030 and 77% in 2050, which will translate to an increase of urban population from 740 million in 2014 to more than 1 billion by 2050. This increase  in urban population is driven by economic growth and the development of the service industry and will produce an exodus from the countryside to cities, putting pressure on urban transportation.

The report states that the situation is exacerbated by the fact that urban workers are responsible for the vast majority of the national GDP, with a share of 63% in 2010 and 80% in 2020. In addition to this, as a result of economic growth, China is expected to overtake the US economy and become the largest economy in the world.

Urban and rural population and GDP in China

As a result of these developments, urban workers should be able to move around freely, creating challenges to public transportation such as congestion, pollution and accessibility of transportation,  as the big increase in urban population will accompanied by massive growth in the motorisation rate.

In 2010, the motorisation rate in Chinese cities was low with on average, only 48 registered private passenger vehicles per 1,000 citizens in urban areas. This number increased with 20% in the past 5 years, and the a rate of 305 vehicles per 1,000 citizens in 2030 and 514 in 2050 is expected, which is a 10.7-times growth from 2010 to 2050. Comparing the numbers to the worldwide rate, where a growth from 127 vehicles per 1,000 citizens in 2010 to 308 in 2050 is expected, it can be concluded China’s motorisation rate is far exceeding the global rate.

Urban motorisation China vs global

Arthur D. Little’s Urban Mobility Index shows that most researched cities are badly equipped to cope with the challenges ahead. Only 11 cities surveyed scored above 52 points, which represents the top 20% of the score range and 17 cities fell into the ‘below-average performance’ cluster, the lowest 20% of the score range.

Interestingly, the highest score went to Hong Kong (58.1), followed closely by Stockholm (57.4 points) and Amsterdam (57.2 points).  Shanghai is the second Chinese city, and is found on the thirteenth place (51.8) in the global score, followed by Wuhan, the fifteenth global city.

Urban mobility systems in Greater China

The authors of the report state that as China also has some of the most advanced cities worldwide in terms of urban mobility systems that could constitute a source of inspiration for other cities across the country, as these cities often are still in their development phase. “With an economy that has achieved major transformations over the last decade, there is a unique opportunity for Chinese cities to become the testbed and breeding ground of tomorrow’s urban mobility systems,” says Antoine Doyon, Head of Arthur D. Little Operations in China.

* The FUM has been set up by Arthur D. Little in 2010 to tackle the urban mobility challenge and help its clients succeed in the ‘new world of innovation’.


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