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Shanghai’s Transportation System

Shanghai, with a total population of more than 24 million, is the largest developed Chinese city (by population) and arguably the most developed among the four municipalities that are directly administered by the Chinese central government. As a result, Shanghai is the economic hub of China and among the largest commercial cities in the world. To facilitate economic activities in Shanghai as well as the city’s large population, the central government of China has developed an extensive transportation system to serve the high transportation demand. Basically, Shanghai’s transportation system is made up of roads, railways and airways.

Shanghai has a rich road network with most expressways either passing through or terminating in the city. Car transport is the most common form of road transport in Shanghai. The road-based transport system in Shanghai consists of bus systems and taxi systems. The increasing demand for car transport and the resultant increase in private car ownership has made the government to build numerous elevated expressways to lessen the rampant traffic congestion. Moreover, due to the rise of bike sharing business, cycling has gained significant popularity in the recent days.  On the other hand, Shanghai also has a rich railway network with four main railway stations as well as a terminus (Hongqiao Station) that serve three major railway lines. (Yang et al., 2018). Needless to mention, railway transport is a major type of transport mode and in Shanghai, it servers hundreds of people daily to their business, to the Pudong airport among many other places.

In addition, there is also a non-motorized transport system which includes pedestrians as well as cyclists. The pedestrian system is made up of sidewalk pavements that are used by all pedestrians including people with visual and physical handicap. The non-motorized cycles include over 9 million bicycles and gas motorcycles.

Even though Shanghai boasts the most developed transport system, it still cannot fully satisfy the transportation demand as there are issues that need to be addressed to make it fully efficient (Yang et al., 2010). This research study will, therefore, focus on highlighting the ways in which the Shanghainese transport system is efficient as well as uncovering, exhaustively, the issues in the current transport system in Shanghai. This study will, therefore, serve as a valuable reference material for Shanghai urban development planners.

Efficiency of the Transport System in Shanghai

Efficiency of a transport system refers to the extent to which a transport system can meet the transportation demands in the system. It usually depends on certain factors including urban land use pattern, the structure of urban transport system, urban transport infrastructure as well as the urban traffic system control system (Yang, Cheng & Cheng, 2010). Ideally, an efficient transport system is a transport system that offers greater accessibility, safety (by reducing the number of traffic accidents), comfort and minimizes environmental pollution. The transport system in Shanghai has increased in efficiency thanks to the developed multi-modal transport infrastructure

In that connection, therefore, Shanghai has an efficient transport system that has a coordinated operation with each mode of transport supplementing the other. For instance, the extensive railway network, due to its advantages of large capacity, is used for medium to long distance travels while the basic modes of transport such as buses and taxi are used for short distance travels and to provide feeder services to railway transport due to their flexibility (Song, Wu & Wu, 2014). Thus, the transport system in Shanghai is efficient as it operates in a coordinated manner to satisfy the transportation needs of the Shanghainese.

The use of information technology in transport control represents the efficiency of the transportation system in shanghai. For instance, information technology is used to monitor and control the flow of traffic. On the other hand, legal restrictions that the Shanghainese Municipal authority have laid down to make it difficult to acquire, own and operate private cars, through such measures as charging high tolls and parking fees, have paved the way for public transportation system for the development of public transport. For instance, parking fees in Shanghai are expensive while taxi service is fairly priced. This is a bid by the government to reduce the number of vehicles on roads to offset traffic congestions

Besides, the road operation system in Shanghai is designed in a way that it ensures maximum effectiveness in terms of timeliness and comfort. The road networks have sidewalks that are designed for pedestrians separate from the car traffic. There are also elevated expressways that are specifically designed to reduce traffic congestion while cyclists also have their paths which consequently reduces the congestion on roads to promote transportation timeliness (Jong, 2014). Furthermore, there are properly constructed parking lots for both bicycle and motor vehicles that help to maintain the aesthetic beauty of Shanghai. Despite the transport system developing to this extent over the past years, it is regrettably insufficient as far as establishing a proper balance between transportation demand and supply.

Issues of the Transportation System in Shanghai

The rapid population growth in Shanghai coupled with rapid motorization has led to several problems to the urban environment as well as the transportation system. One of the most prevalent problem of the Shanghai transportation system is the issue of population explosion. The availability of employment opportunities in Shanghai has attracted a large number of rural immigrants into the city thus increasing the transportation demand beyond the extent to which the available transport facilities can sufficiently serve. As a result, the city experiences unpleasant traffic congestions due to increased ownership of automobiles. Additionally, motorized, motorized and non-motorized vehicles compete for the available roads causing mixed traffic problems. Thus, overpopulation renders Shanghai’s transportation system inefficient as its input is unable to match the rapidly rising demands (Yang et al., 2010).

Secondly, the transportation system in Shanghai is also affected by the unbalanced transport infrastructure development investment as well as poor implementation of transportation development policies. Despite the obvious fact that expansion of public transport system is the best way of reducing traffic congestion on the roads, the Shanghai administrative authorities have failed to implement a public transport priority system (Peng, Sun & Lu, 2012).  In essence, the government have failed to adequately invest in the construction and management of public transport infrastructure especially rail tracks as well as adjustment of bus lanes to facilitate intermodal connectivity. In addition, the information system level for public transport in Shanghai is still low which renders the development of transportation system difficult.

Moreover, the government policies have not sufficiently supported the development of the Shanghai public transportation system. For instance, development of the local and feeder bus services is at the bottom of the development priority list. In contrary, huge amounts of money have been channeled into development of metro and light rails. This leaves the bus systems underdeveloped hence slow, undependable and inconvenient. Peng et al. asserts that poor transport development policies implementation as well as low allocation coupled with low transportation development investments are therefore rendering the public transportation system in Shanghai inefficient (2012).

Due to the fragmented management structures of the transportation system and land use, integrating public transport and land use has been difficult in Shanghai hence making the transport system inefficient due to poor land use (Yang et al., 2010). For instance, transport development planning practices often fails to incorporate the transit-oriented development (TOD) planning. There are, therefore, transport system problems in Shanghai that are as a result of urban development plan duplication. Specifically, most Chinese cities including Shanghai have transport infrastructure designs that were copied from another city without regard to its traffic conditions and patterns of land use.

Institutional barriers are also a big factor that makes the Shanghai transportation system inefficient. For instance, the Chinese Ministry of Railways plans, constructs and manages the high-speed rail systems. The local government, therefore, plays a negligible role as far as the planning, construction and management of the high-speed railway systems. On the other hand, the planning, construction and management of the bus system is done by the Shanghainese local government with little contribution from the central government. Due to the fact that these transportation modes are managed by different governments, coordinating them to make the transportation system efficient is difficult since none of the service providers is responsible for initiating the coordination role.

Besides the inter-agency coordination difficulty, the other problem facing the transportation system in Shanghai is spatial segregation and traffic accidents. Some urban transport infrastructure such as large expressways cause spatial segregation. For instance, young children as well as the physically and visually handicapped have great challenges crossing such transport infrastructures which makes it hard for the handicapped to enjoy the urban transportation services. The transport infrastructural development is concentrated in the city center which makes transportation services in the suburbs inefficient.

Lastly, excessive air pollution is another problem of the transport system in Shanghai. The increased number of personal cars have caused increase in the amount of Carbon (IV) Oxide and Sulphur (IV) Oxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Concentration of CO2 and SO2 causes air pollution (deterioration of the air quality) (Yang et al., 2010). To make the Shanghai transportation system able to meet the transportation demands, there is need for implementation of certain strategies.

Strategies for Improving the Current Transportation System in Shanghai

Since traffic congestion is one of the most serious transport system problem in Shanghai, the government should concentrate on expanding bus and rail systems and make public transportation a priority to help reduce the problem of underdevelopment. Besides, construction of railways and expansion of bus lanes will benefit the Shanghai transport system in a great way as it will help to reduce traffic congestion on roads. Increasing the use of public transport will also lead to reduction in air pollution as it will reduce the number of private cars on the roads and consequently the amount of CO2 produced from the burning of fuels. The national government of China should also collaborate with the municipal government of Shanghai in the planning, construction and management of transport infrastructures to enable easy coordination of the different transportation modes.


Shanghai, being a major commercial city in China as well as globally, boast one of the most developed transportations systems. The Shanghainese transportation system is made up of an extensive transportation infrastructure made up of road systems as well as railway systems. However, due to overpopulation in shanghai and the resultant increase in transportation demand, the transport system does not sufficiently meet the demand. There is, therefore, need for all the concerned agencies to collaborate in improving the efficiency of the transportation system to ensure that it is in a position to meet the ever rising transportation demand.


  • Peng, Z., Sun, D. J., & Lu, Q. (2012). China’s public transportation; problems, policies and future prospective to sustainability. Retrieved on 17 September from’s_Public_Transportation_Problems_Policies_and_Future_Prospective_to_Sustainability
  • Song, M., Wu, N. & Wu, K. (2014). Energy consumption and energy efficiency of the transportation sector in Shanghai. Retrieved on 17 September 2018 from
  • Yang, Y., Chen, H. & Chen, L. (2010). Evaluation of public transportation system in Shanghai, China. Retrieved on 17 September 2018 from

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