Issue 505 August 2011

Dictatorship, Democracy and Urbanism

SPUR's city trip to Shanghai offered some tough but important lessons for American planners.
By Gabriel Metcalf Has any place experienced change as rapid as China’s, growing from 26 to 50 percent urban in just 20 years — a shift of a half a billion people? The standard of living has risen equally rapidly: Since 1990 the country’s gross domestic product has grown by more than tenfold. It might be possible to stop people from moving to cities in search of economic opportunity, but it would require a system far more authoritarian than contemporary China. For example, there are 14 million people in Shanghai with official permanent-resident permits, but an additional 9 million migrants live in the municipal region and are participating in its economic expansion. This year SPUR’s annual city trip was to Shanghai. It was the first time we visited a city outside North America, and it afforded a glimpse into China’s phenomenal urban growth, the most significant urbanization project in human... Read More »

Shanghai’s Regional Economy

What can the Bay Area learn from China's regional approach to economic planning?
Shanghai is the pinnacle of Chinese economic development and a good reflection of where the entire country is headed if growth continues. What can the Bay Area learn from China's regional approach to economic planning? Read More »

Learning From a World-Class Transit System

Can Shanghai’s high-tech subways and high-speed trains trump its growing love affair with the car?
Shanghai is China’s urban showcase , and transportation is one of its showpieces of scope, scale and speed. A decade ago, the city had one subway line. Today it has a grid of 11, covering 260 miles and averaging more than 5 million passenger trips a day. By 2020 all those numbers will double. Shanghai is also a hub for the world’s largest high-speed rail network. After just three years of construction, the 820-mile Beijing–Shanghai bullet line opened in June — right on schedule. A year after Shanghai’s World Expo, the city’s sprucing for that impress-the-world event was still evident. Still, public transit is planned for the long term, and most is world class. It’s the only way to serve the transportation demands of a still-growing megacity of 23 million at an acceptable energy cost — and it’s a strident contrast to the shortsighted decision-making that hobbles most U.S. transportation... Read More »

Placemaking in the New and Old City

Is Shanghai the city of the 21st century?
The Shanghainese have built an economic dynamo — and are proud of it. Last year’s World Expo rivaled the Beijing Olympics in creating a transformative new infrastructure. As a region of 23 million spread over 2,450 square miles, Shanghai can be vast and intimidating. But it is not a strange place, at least not for visitors from cities with 19th-century roots. Its historic center is still a well-scaled walking city with great transit, and it is safe, surprisingly green and serviceably bilingual. Like Paris, Shanghai divides into left and right banks — historic Puxi and newly developed Pudong — separated by the Huangpu River. Don’t confuse the whole of Pudong with its Lujiazui district, a financial center of overwrought towers and overscaled avenues. Hard to pronounce, harder to walk. The best place to view Lujiazui is from the other side of the river, along the newly rebuilt embankment of the... Read More »

Shanghai Municipality and the Bay Area

The Shanghai Municipality includes 17 districts as well as the city center. At 23 million people and 2,450 square miles, it is more comparable to the Bay Area than to San Francisco.
The Shanghai Municipality includes 17 districts as well as the city center. At 23 million people and 2,450 square miles, it is more comparable to the Bay Area than to San Francisco. Read More »

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