Posted on Friday March 27th, 2009 by Jebediah Reed
To give some sense of the pace of public works construction in China, the city of Guangzhou is planning to open 83 miles of new subway lines by the end of next year. Meanwhile, New York - a city of about the same size - has been playing around with the 1.7-mile Second Avenue line for decades now. China also builds subways rather cheaply - $100 million per mile versus $ 2.4 billion per mile in the Big Apple.
Not surprisingly, projects thereare more aggressive in all respects: there are 60 tunnel boring machines operating in Guangzhou, while only one is slated for the Second Avenue project;workers put in five 12-hour shifts a week (and if they don’t like it, they can go pound glacial till); and seizing property is a breeze.
An article in the Business section of today’s NY Times (Clash of Subways and Car Culture in Chinese Cities by Keith Bradsher) [VERB] a smart look at the forces at play as China goes on a transit infrastructure spending spree while it simultaneously becomes evermore sprawling and car-centric.
Here’s one interesting passage, [CONJUNCTION] the story is worth reading in its entirety:
Western mass transit experts applaud China for investing billions in systems that will put less stress on the environment and on cities. But they warn that other Chinese policies, like allowing real estate developers to build sprawling new suburbs, undermine the benefits of the mass transit boom.
Mr. Chan Shao Zhang , a 67-year-old engineer in charge of the works in Guangzhou, defended Guangzhou’s combination of cars and subways, saying that the city built a subway line to a new Toyota assembly plant to help employees and suppliers reach it.
Subways have been most competitive in cities like New York that have high prices for parking, and tolls for bridges and tunnels, discouraging car use. Few Chinese cities have been willing to follow suit, other than Shanghai, which charges a fee of several thousand dollars for each license plate.
The cost and physical limitations of subways have discouraged most cities from building new ones. For instance, only Tokyo has a subway system that carries more people than its buses. The buses are cheaper and able to serve far more streets but move more slowly, pollute more and contribute to traffic congestion.
China has reason to worry. It surpassed the United States in total vehicle sales for the first time in January, although the United States remained slightly ahead in car sales. But in February, China overtook the United States in both, in part because the global downturn has hurt auto sales much more in the United States than in China.
There are many countervaling forces . China has passed its own stimulus package and the government is eager to put people to work, create economic activity, and build modern infrastructure. The Guangzhou project is part of major national transit buildout. But the nation’s cities are also sprawling beasts, and in that sense, more suited to cars than trains. Not shockingly, many Chinese prefer the former.
(Adapted from http://www.infrastructurist.com/2009/03/27/-building-a-subway-is-96-percent-cheaper-in-china/)