Several Transportation Policies of Seoul and Beijing

Several Transportation Policies of Seoul and Beijing

With the rapid growth of economic development, transportation plays an important role in modern society. It can be considered as a carrier for the circulating operation of social economy and also an image of a country. So every government input a great amount of resource to develop their transportation. They build up many facilities to promote urban development and help people’s travel.

In the Seoul trip, I was very impressed by Seoul’s traffic condition. As we know, Seoul is an international and large-scale city with 10.4 millions of population. The number of cars is 2.98 million. Both of its population density and car density are in front row of the world. But according to my observation during these seven days in Seoul, I found out that Seoul’s transportation condition is better than other cities that have similar population density as well as car density. In order to confirm my observation, I searched some information and found out that the situation is indeed like what I saw. I was very curious about the reason why Seoul can do so well on its transportation. After I was given the presentation named “Seoul’s challenges & Achievement for Sustainable Urban Transport” and visiting the TOPIS, I think I basically got the answer.

Meanwhile, the Seoul’s transportation condition made me remind one experience. Before the Seoul trip, I firstly came back to China from the US. My airplane arrived at Beijing Airport, and then I took the airport bus to go to Beijing train station. This trip normally takes passenger one hour and ten minutes; while because of the traffic jam, I spent almost two hours on the trip. However, I did not meet the same problem when I went to Incheon Airport on Sunday. Although I was told by staff that Sunday is a busy day that the traffic condition would be a little worse than that in weekday, However, the real situation was that the whole trip from the hotel to the airport was still very smooth without any congestion.

As a large scale and international city as well, the traffic condition in Beijing is much worse than Seoul. In this paper, I try to make a comparison of transportation policies from both department of transportation of Beijing and Seoul and analyze both differences and similarities. Through the analysis, I try to find out what kind of lessons that Beijing can learn from Seoul.

Beijing, the capital of China, has 19.6 million of population. The number of cars is 3.56 million. There are 8 lines of subway, which total length are 336 km. The number of buses is 62026, and there are more than 600 routes. The number of taxies is 69,000. Seoul, the capital of South Korean, has 10.4 million of population. The number of cars is 2.98 million. There are 9 lines of subway and its total length is 315.4 km. The number of buses is 7951 that are divided into 503 routes. The number of taxies is 72341.

New Transportation System for Beijing
Policy 1: Public Transport Priority
In 2006, Beijing Traffic Management Bureau issued Opinions on the Development of Public Transport Priority. It is a policy that focuses on improving the serious traffic jam in Beijing. For the policy, there are four measures currently being used by Beijing government.

The first measure is the financial support for the low price ticket of public transportation. Beijing Government has already input a total of US$167 million to help public transport companies to reduce fares. Specifically, bus and subway fare for bus is US$0.16 and for subway is US$0.32. If passengers who use smart cards or debit cards to buy tickets they only pay US $0.06 for bus and US$0.12 for subway.

The second measure is the priority traffic management that includes constructing exclusive bus lanes and bus bays, implementing traffic signal priority and establishing the bus rapid transit system.

Currently, the bus lanes in Beijing are mainly installed in Second Ring Road and Third Ring Road and are exclusive for bus in the times of 7:00-9:00 am and 5:00-9:00 pm. Except these two times, other vehicles can also use the bus lanes. Expressway bus lane is new designed for developing public transport priority. There is only one expressway bus lane that covers the road between Sihuidong to Baliqiao, which is a very busy road. According to the bus lane, it is expected to shorten 30 minutes’ commute to 10 minutes.

In order to coordinate with bus lanes, Beijing government implements bus signal priority as well. Through the public transport vehicle detections installed in crossroads, it can extend the time of green signal and shorten the time of red signal for the bus that is about to go through the crossroads. Currently, there are 256 crossroads that have served to the signal priority, which cover 12 main streets.

The third measure is to develop the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The BRT in Beijing is an exclusive right-of-way bus lane equipped with exclusive bus station.

Policy 2: Car Usage Management
The policy also focuses on relieving traffic congestion.
In recent years, because of the rapid economic development, people enjoy a higher living standard, and the household income is much more than before. As a result, more and more people purchase cars for household using and thereby the number of private cars sharply increased in a short time. By 2009, there are more than one million private cars on Beijing’s roads. Meanwhile, because people more and more tend to choose cars as transport, so either cars or taxis increase sharply. Along with the increasing of cars, traffic congestion is worsening. In order to cope with the increasing, Beijing government issued a couple of policies. Besides to develop public transportation, car usage management is another measure for solving traffic jam.

The policy includes three measures: License Plate Number Restriction, increasing parking charge, Travel restriction for cars.

The first one is license-plate lottery system. The policy stipulates that all new car registration will be allocated by the license-plate lottery system after December 24, 2010, and it also limit the number of 2011 cars registration to 240,000 vehicles. In other word, compared with 700,000 cars in 2010, there are only 240,000 can be registered to run on roads in 2011 the whole year.

The second one is increasing parking fee. The original parking fee in Beijing is cheap. The fact indirectly promotes people to choose cars as their transportation and thereby contributes to traffic jam and the shortage of parking lots. As a result, the government charges a higher parking fee, going by different areas and times. According to increasing parking fee, Beijing government wants to encourage people to take public transportation instead of to drive cars and also spend less time on parking lots in order to give chances to other people.

The third one is travel restriction for cars. This policy started during Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, and continues to use it to control the traffic till now. From Monday to Friday, cars must be parked one day every week, going by the last digit of vehicle license.

Policy 3: Action plan for green, people-oriented and high-tech urban transport.
This policy contributes to environmental protection. Specifically, Beijing government is planning to construct Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) zone.
There are two measures have been taken for implementing the policy.

The first one is free bicycle rental. Originally, bicycle is the major transport mode for Chinese people. China has been known as “bicycle kingdom”. In Beijing the ratio of people riding bicycle was up to 62.7% in 1980’s. With the urbanization and the rapid development of economy, the ratio was sharply reduced to 38.5% in 2000, 30.3% in 2005 and 20% in 2008. Currently, more and more bicycle roads are encroached by driveways and thereby it causes the reduction of using bicycle. However, as we know, bicycle is a kind of environmental and convenient transportation, which is very adequate for cities that have serious traffic jam. So Beijing government initiated the policy to develop bicycle this kind of transport. Specifically, Beijing government will set up “free-of-charge bicycle rental nonlocal access system.” There will be several bicycle accesses distributed in Beijing that are operated by a private company.

So far, the policy has been implemented for four years but the result is not as good as expected. Initiatively, there were more than 80 rental service points. But in 2010, there were only ten of them left, and the operating situation of each rental service points is not good. Some of them are hard to maintain the balance and are confronted with breaking down.

The second one is integration of cycling and public transport, which is an extension of the first measure above. In the modern society, only relying on bicycle as major transport mode is an unrealistic scheme. With the development of urban transportation, cycling cannot satisfy the demand for going anywhere conveniently. So Beijing government promoted integrated “cycling and public transport” mode in order to support the development of cycling. Specifically, Beijing government is building more bicycle lanes that connect public transport. Meanwhile, there will be more bicycle parking lots near subway stations and bus stations. These facilities will efficiently help people who use bicycle as major transport.

The transportation policy of Seoul
Policy 1: Provision of Decent Public Transportation Service
The policy of Seoul’s bus system is mainly divided into two periods. One is before 2004 and the other is the after 2004. In the middle of 2004, Seoul Metropolitan Government initiated a reform on Bus service, which has been using till now. Specifically, the new bus system policy includes the following aspects:

The first one is the reorganization of the bus routes and number system. Before 2004, the majority of bus services were operated by private companies. The Seoul Metropolitan Government was only responsible for determining the bus fare rather than controlling the bus routes, number, schedules and other services. Because of no consistent bus system and well coordination among various bus companies and these companies only pursued maximum profit, “many routes were highly circuitous, overlapping, and not adequately integrated with metro services and the routes of other bus companies.” The chaos bus system caused decline the quality of Seoul’s bus services so that people intended to use car services, but the result is more and more transportation pollution and congestion. Additionally, Seoul Metropolitan Government needed to provide high percentage of subsidy to cover the operating deficit over $65 million. As a result of the situation, Seoul Metropolitan Government set up a couple of new policies to improve the bus services in order to cope with the increasing pressure on transportation.

First of all, the new bus routes is grouped into 4 lines, categorized them by color. The red is for Inter-regional Lines, which link the sub-urban areas as well as sub -center cities in order to meet the demand of private cars. The blue is for Trunk Lines, which connects suburban areas to center cities. The green is for Feeder Lines, which facilitates to transfer from subways to buses. The yellow is for Circular Lines, which serves business and shopping in urban areas.

The second one is the installation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors. The BRT includes “the exclusive median bus lanes, high-quality median bus stops, priority traffic signals at intersections, real-time information for passengers and system operators, and new, state-of-the-art buses.”

The third one is the integrated distance-based fare system. The new fare system can make free transfer between bus-bus and bus-subway within 30minutes.

The fourth one is the creation of the smart transportation card system. Seoul Metropolitan Government introduced “T-Money” card that is used in any public transportation and accommodates the new fare system.

The last but very important one is TOPIS. Its full name is Transportation Operation & Information Service. It is a comprehensive center for operating and managing traffic situation in Seoul by collecting traffic data. The center mainly focuses on four aspects: “Real-time communication, Scientific administration of transportation, Integrated transportation management and Strengthened promotional function.” Through the implementation of the center, Seoul’s traffic condition can be monitored timely and thereby relieve congestions.

All policies above are coordinated through a new established system—Bus Management System (BMS). Through using “advanced intelligent transport system(ITS) technology”, Global Position System(GPS) that are installed in the bus terminals to located bus positions, monitors bus speed, assigns buses to routes that are in need. Meanwhile, the system can provide “the real time for passengers waiting at bus stations via internet.”

Through 7 years’ implementation, the achievements of these policies are significant. The first achievement of the policies is the increase of public transportation users. Citizen’s satisfaction is increasingly improved. The bus accidents sharply declined. The fare revenue has been increased 24.18% in five years.

Policy 2 Eco-friendly, Human-oriented Transportation System
Under the theme, there are three policies that are Promotion of Bicycle Use and to develop pedestrian-oriented transportation environment and parking system.

1. Promotion of Bicycle Use.
With Fewer cars mean less pollution and less congestion. As one of the most environmental-friendly transport modes, Bicycle is revived to fight against the increasingly serious congestion. For the policy, there are three measures to develop it. Firstly, Seoul Metropolitan Government will construct more bicycle-only lane. According to an investigation by Seoul Government, one of reasons that why people don’t take bicycle as transport mode is due to a lack of dedicated path. So the first step of promotion bicycle use is to pave more bicycle-only lanes. The current plan is to pave 207im bicycle lane along all of roads of Seoul by 2012. At that time, the ratio of commuters who take bicycles is up to 4.4%, while the current ratio is only 1.6%.

Besides the step, Seoul Metropolitan Government also develops the bicycle rental system and installs more convenient facilities for bicycle use.
The bicycle rental system is to encourage people to take cycling. Currently, there are 43 locations that are available for bicycle rental. Meanwhile, there are operating center that are equipped with the location. The center is mainly responsible for controlling, maintenance, station management. The first step to rent bicycle needs is registration.

2. Pedestrian-oriented transportation environment
Seoul Metropolitan Government tries to make Seoul become an easy walk city. So the enlargement of crosswalk and the pedestrian operated signal have been established. These facilities provide pedestrian a friendly environment to walk.

Policy 3 Strengthening Travel Demand Management
As a result of greatly increasing in vehicles use, especially private cars, so the congestion is more and more serious.
Weekly no driving day aims at reducing the amount of private vehicles on the roads and thereby relieving the congestion and saving environment. The policy is voluntary rather than a mandatory. So private car drivers who want to be volunteers should apply for and attach electronic tags to the car. Then there is RFID readers to verify compliance. Seoul government gives incentives through successful sincere participants.
Although the weekly no driving day is a voluntary policy, the effect is notable. The traffic volume decrease 11%, and the travel speed increases 3%. Meanwhile, the air pollutants slightly reduce after implementing the policy.

The policy “Congestion charge” has been implemented since 1996, which is mainly used in No.1 and No.3 Namsan Tunnel. The basic congestion price is about 2 dollars. If the car is highly-efficient vehicles or a volunteer of weekly no driving day, there is a 50% tax cut discount for them.

1. Similarities and Differences of transportation policies between Seoul and Beijing
Seoul and Beijing are two cities that have much in common. Through the statements of transport policies in Beijing and Seoul above, the transport policies of these two cities are similar on the whole. Although the names of policies are different, the core contents are all about developing sustainable urban transport system. But in specific there are still some differences between them. In the paper, I will make a comparison of the similarities and differences of transportation policies between Seoul and Beijing.

Generally speaking, the nature and function of Beijing and Seoul are almost the same. They are all capitals of China and South Korea, respectively. Both of them are mega cities and play important roles in politics. Meanwhile, the number of population and the average territory areas are almost similar. As a result, the transport policies are similar, too.

First of all, both Seoul and Beijing give priority to the development of public transportation. When the whole world is confronted with the issue of the rapid increasing of vehicles, developing public transportation turns to be an effective means to solve that issue. Currently, Beijing and Seoul input a large amount money and resources on subway and bus as well as their related facilities. Beijing is implementing the low fare policy to attract more people to take subways and buses. Likewise, Seoul reduced the fare and introduced the smart card to convenient passengers who take public transportation.

Furthermore, both Beijing and Seoul are working on improving facilities that go with buses, such as the bus lanes. But there are differences between them. In Seoul, the bus lane are installed in the median of roads, while the majority of bus lanes are on right side of road. Additionally, Seoul Metropolitan Government introduced the smart bus stop in recent year, which is not available in Beijing now. The smart bus stop equipped with a screen that can provide the real-time information for passengers. It can tell you where the bus you are waiting for and also provide traffic broadcasting service so you can find out if there is a traffic jam ahead. In Beijing, bus stops are still regular modes.
Besides that, another similarity is about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and public traffic signals priority. Both Seoul and Beijing are contributing to develop them. But the difference is the Seoul is earlier than Beijing to develop the BTR and traffic signals priority. much more On this point, I think Seoul’s median bus lane is better than Beijing’s.

2. Similarities and differences on policies of developing environmental friendly transportation
Along with the increasing of vehicles, environmental pollution is more and more serious. To control the amount of cars running on the roads is a normal way to Seoul Metropolitan Government and Beijing government is established non-motorized system to control car using and thereby protect environment.

Promotion of bicycle use is a common measure for implementing the policy. Both Seoul and Beijing adopted it and are paving more bicycle-only lanes to convenient cycling commuters. There are also some differences of the policy between Seoul and Beijing.

The first difference is about the number of rental locations. The number of rental locations in Seoul is much more than that in Beijing. There are more than 300 rental locations in Seoul, while in Beijing only ten locations left at present. The second difference is about rental method. In Beijing, to rent a bike needs to pay for 400 deposits. While in Seoul you don’t need to pay for deposit. You just register with your identification. Moreover, rental locations in Seoul are around Hangang River, while in Beijing they are near subway or bus stations.

Another policy for developing environmental friendly policy is to develop pedestrian-oriented environment. There will be more facilities to promote convenient pedestrian. However, in Beijing there is no special policy for pedestrian. Instead, more and more pedestrian sidewalks are turn to be used by vehicles. For the car restriction policy, there is a basic difference between Seoul and Beijing. In Seoul the “weekly no driving day” is voluntary. Drivers who want to be volunteers of the event would be awarded. While in Beijing it is a mandatory. If drivers violate it, they will be subject to penalty.

3. Similarities and differences of travel demand management policy
With the rapid development of economy, the amount of private cars sharply increases. In order to control the fast increasing, both Seoul and Beijing issued policies to cope with it. For this policy, Beijing and Seoul have no similar measures.

First of all, Beijing introduced a unique system named “License-plate Lottery System.” It tries to limit the amount of private vehicles by limiting car registration.

Secondly, both Seoul Metropolitan Government and Beijing Government adopted to charge various fees to reduce the number of private vehicles. But the specific measures are different between Seoul and Beijing. In Seoul, the government only charge congestion fee on No.1 and No.3 Namsan Tunnel rather than adopted it in the city-wide. In Beijing, the government increased parking fees to promote people to take public transportation or park less time.

What China can learn from Seoul on transportation policy?
As China’s neighbor, South Korean is a small country but with high density of population. As one of the largest cities in the world, Seoul has over 10 millions of population; its urban area is 605.25 km2. Meanwhile, almost half of South Korean’s population lives in the Seoul National Capital Area where Seoul is the central of it. In this area, the total number of vehicles is up to 6 million. However, although Seoul has such a huge amount of vehicles, the traffic condition is much better than many other big cities. Almost everyone who has been to Seoul admits it.
Compared with Seoul, Beijing is also a mega city, but the traffic condition is much worse than Seoul’s. Someone even said that traffic in Beijing is like a nightmare. Although Beijing government input enormous resources to improve it, the result is not satisfactory. Through the comparison of transportation policy of Beijing and Seoul, I think there should be something that Beijing can learn from Seoul.

The first one is to learn the Seoul’s public transportation system, especially the TOPIS.
Although Beijing is also developing a similar system, there is something that can learn by Beijing. According to my experience in Beijing, the number of Beijing’s bus is as good as Seoul’s. Moreover, the quality of buses is also well. But it is not good on information service. Because of the traffic congestion, bus runs in a very slow speed, especially in the rush hour. So passengers have to wait at bus stop for quite a long time due to no timely information to tell them what happened ahead. As a result, people would like to turn to choose private cars a main transport mode, which may cause traffic congestion more seriously. TOPIS is a good mode for Beijing to implement an advanced information service system. Through the system, the government can collect and analyze real-time data and then sent information service to passengers’ smart phones to better plan their journeys.

Secondly, Beijing can use the experience of median bus lane and smart bus stops. As I mentioned previously, Beijing is developing bus lanes in order to enhance the bus speed and thus attract more people to take bus as a main traffic mode. However, the real situation is not as good as expectation. Bus is still not the first option for commuters due to its low speed and the traffic congestion. Accordingly, the bus lane seems to not play its function. Why does it happen? According to my research, the bus lanes is only available at two rush hours and it turn back to be regular roads other than these two times. Moreover, many other vehicles illegally use the bus lanes and thus cause the congestion on the bus lanes. While the Seoul’s median bus lanes works better due to two reasons. On one hand, the median bus lanes are monitored by TOPIS so that congestions can be found out timely. And the information will be sent to bus drivers and passengers as soon as possible. On the other hand, the bus lane in the median of road is easier to isolate other vehicles. Moreover, each bus stop is equipped with smart system to provide real time information to commuters so that they can know the traffic condition timely.

Because of the complex situation of Beijing traffic condition, I think it is not easy to change all of left-side bus lanes to median bus lanes, because median bus lanes will play their best functions when they equip with smart bus stop. Those newly establishment of roads, Beijing government can try to develop median bus lanes on those newly establishment of roads. Besides that, construct smart bus stop is necessary for Beijing. As I know, bus commuter waste much time to wait for bus everyday due to the lack of exact information as to bus arrival times.

Thirdly, I think Beijing should add incentives for people who strictly obey the mandatory rather than only punish violators. In Seoul, the car restriction policy is named as “Weekly no driving day”, which is voluntary, while the same policy in Beijing is mandatory. Meanwhile, for people who want to be volunteers to drive less a day in a week, the government will give incentives for them, but there is no any award but only penalty. The current situation is the number of cars does not reduced as expected. Most people complained the restriction disturbed their normal daily trip. However, although the policy is voluntary, the implementation is much better than Beijing. According to governmental report, the effect is satisfactory. Both traffic volume and air pollution reduced, and the travel speed increased. I think the result was benefit from the nature of voluntary rather than mandatory. The incentives stimulate people to obey it. So Beijing government can grant some incentives or awards like Seoul and thereby raise enthusiasm of drivers and make them positively obey the mandatory.

As a mega city with small urban area, Seoul meets a great pressure on transportation. However, the pressure does not bring difficulties for Seoul’s development. Instead, Seoul developed a very successful sustainable urban transport system and provided a comprehensive mode for other mega cities that are confronted with traffic congestions and other transport issues.

From the presentation and materials that I found by myself, I strongly feel that to develop public transportation will be a trend for all cities to solve the traffic congestions, which is more and more serious with the rapid development of the world. Meanwhile, the development of transportation must be under the premise of protecting the environment. Transportation is one of the main reasons for global warming and the worsening of ecological environment. As a result, cities like Seoul and Beijing all issued transport policies that are based on environmental protection.

In this paper, I talked about several transportation policies of Seoul and Beijing. Actually, the transportation policies of the two cities are much more than what I talked in my paper. Why I choose these policies is because they relates to traffic congestions and environmental protection, which are the most pressing issue for each city in the world. Through the paper, I found that Seoul has relatively mature and well organized transportation policies, while Beijing is still lag behind Seoul on the policy making and implementation. Along with the increasingly serious traffic condition, Beijing government is doing effort to solve them. Through the comparison between Seoul and Beijing, I found there are several policies are similar to Seoul’s. But the result is not as good as Seoul’s. There must be something wrong with policies and implementation. So to learn lessons from Seoul mode and adjust policies will be an effective way for the development of Beijing. Transportation.

1. John Pucher, (2005),Public Transport Reforms in Seoul: Innovations and Motivated by Funding Crisis, Journal of Public Transportation, Vol.8, No.5, 41-62

2. JIANG Yulin, LI Zhenyu, (2010), Practices and Policies of Green Urban Transport in China, ractices and Policies of Green Urban Transport in China May,2010, 26-34