Public transit has existed in China since 1969 with the opening of the Beijing Metro. Today, Shanghai has the largest metro system in the world, and is one of ten mainland Chinese cities, in addition to Hong Kong, that have a metro system. In addition, there are thirty more cities in China with metro systems either under construction or in planning stages.
The Hong Kong opened its metro system in 1979 in an effort to reduce traffic congestion. Today, public transit on the whole is very popular, with over 80% mode capture rate. Hong Kong continues to expand its rail transit network, but at a slower rate than many cities in mainland China. The system operator has also taken on the role of developer, generating more profits from property management than railway fares, and in the process has provided a very successful example of Transportation Oriented Development (TOD) policies in action, which are a model for TOD efforts worldwide.
In summary, a short compare and contrast between China’s fast growing cities of today and post-World War II American cities is provided. Both are growing (or grew) at incredible speeds, have rising middle classes and significant economic growth. What Chinese planners can note is that in America, highways were chosen over public transportation options. Today, that means that traffic congestions remains a major problem in many American cities. Additionally, funds to maintain infrastructure have waned as the cities’ growth has slowed with the slowing of economic growth.