Post WCTR – More madness in Hangzou

Jennifer

By Jennifer Cleaver

Hangzhou (population 8,700,000) is described by Chinahighlights.com as “a large and relatively wealthy port city on the Yangtze River near the sea. It has long been an imperial capital or a provincial capital”. Arriving by train into complex station, no English was spoken or written. It later became apparent that although I could produce my final destination in the local written language to the driver this did not necessarily mean they could read it, or read at all. This was a recurring problem for a non-Chinese speaker trying to communicate without any understanding of a non-phonetic language. Nothing seemed to work unless you befriend a local to translate for you, and they are not always easy to find.

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I visited Hangzhou as an escape from the big city and to enjoy the” tranquillity” of the west lake, to hire a bike and breath in the  fresh air ….easier said than done. Hangzhou encouragingly does have the largest “Boris bike” system in the world with over 2700 bike stations across the city. I hired a bike for 8 hours and it cost me no more than £2.50. It was definitely a great, cheap and independent way to travel, yet having been a pedestrian and a passenger in the Chinese traffic system this still did not fully prepare me for running the gauntlet and surviving the death run of being a cyclist. I’m no stranger to assertive cycling but this experience increased my levels of alertness and simultaneously decreased my lifespan.

The tranquil bike ride across traffic free causeways offered a new challenge, whilst there may have been no cars there were hoards of people. All of them glued to their smart phones, completely unaware of their surroundings and none of them looking upwards or forwards. Others walking, running, cycling, meandering, getting on and off boat trips, or stopping suddenly to take photos or visit a street vendor. In addition, there are the tourist buses that shout over a megaphone that they are approaching yet still will not stop and you could become collateral damage if you don’t move to the side, even if that means you plough into a group of elderly local tourists eating deep fried chicken feet snacks.  Hangzhou made me think of the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. Nothing is as it seems, the delicate bird song is actually piped music with speakers hidden in fake bird nests, the vines creeping up the trees are the electric cables, the hills are purpose built, the foliage is manufactured. It is a fake place, not just in Tony Hilfiger and Louise Vuitton clothing and handbags but in the Disney style world it’s designed. Having said that I liked it, even after I realized it wasn’t real, it was nicer to have than not to have.

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Post WCTR – Madness in Hangzou

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By Joanna Elvy

After the WCTRS conference had finished, Karen, Julian and I decided to embark on a day trip to Hangzhou. However this trip was not without its transport challenges. In order to get there we had to take a 50 minute metro ride to Hongqiao station on the outskirts of the city, where we were met with a confusing departure board full of various options, departures and train types. Fortunately the person we spoke to in the ticket office spoke English and was very helpful. Once we were on our way on the high speed train, we found it to be clean, orderly and comfortable and we arrived in Hangzhou less than an hour later.

Once in Hangzhou itself we successfully negotiated it’s metro and found ourselves just a block from the edge of the beautiful West Lake. If I had any abiding memories of the city it was that the air was cleaner and the sky bluer than we had been used to in Shanghai. It was also noticeably hotter but less humid. Our first task was to tackle some dragonfruit lollies that melted quicker than we could eat them. Creating a sticky mess aside we had a very pleasant walk along the lake to the pagoda and back. In an effort to see a more authentic traditional side to China we also visited the old town (Hefang Street) although as Jennifer outlines in her article on Hangzou, this felt more like a Disney version of old China with its dazzling array of gift shops.

The most nerve wracking part of our adventure was getting back to Shanghai. First we tried Hangzhou station itself which was crazily busy but there the ticket machines were for Chinese ID card holders only and the ticket queues were roughly 30-40 deep. As we knew that there more trains to Shanghai from Hangzhou East we gave up and travelled there instead. However, when we arrived the ticket queues were even longer! Here the departure board was not in English so we were not certain about our options whilst in the queue. After a 50 minute wait we were finally served and managed to get standing only tickets for a train in about 2 hours time. The queue to get through security was equally bewildering (all Metro and train stations we visited in China had airport style scanners) and when we got into the main concourse itself we were greeted with perhaps the largest concentration of people we’d ever seen on any mode of transport.

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The journey home however was uneventful and not as crowded as we had feared. Overall it gave us an insight into transport in China that a visit to Shanghai alone would not have done. Perhaps next time though we will book our train tickets in advance!

Post WCTR, Shanghai Transport observations

Jennifer

By Jennifer Cleaver

Whether you are a transport academic or not it is interesting to note the contrast and contradictions of thriving, busy, hot, overcrowded cities in China. Shanghai (population over 14 million) has a transport system that in my opinion seems to follow no rules. Traffic lights are barely even used as a loose guideline. Segregated cycle lanes are shared with motorbikes, electrical powered bikes (soon to be christened the “silent assassin”),  pedestrians, taxis and anyone else wishing to use the pavement or to just continue their journey without stopping. Standing in the middle of a busy junction, as a pedestrian, it was like watching a beautifully choreographed dance, yet actually trying to cross a road on foot was a far less relaxing experience. I found my face only inches away from a public bus as it took a casual right turn in front of my legitimate green man crossing. And those silent assassins, well they appear without any warning, or lights or sound and will whizz passed you at any time, any place, and anywhere.

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Catching a bus is also a challenge until you get used to crossing the above mentioned “cycle lane” first before you can enjoy a 20p bus journey with air conditioning and multi-language announcements. Getting off the bus is then your new mission, should you choose to accept it. The doors open and you are thrown back out into a new cycle lane with oncoming traffic traveling in all directions, at a variety of speeds that you need to dodge before reaching the path, which is another gauntlet run itself. Shanghai is famous for its pollution and while the sky is heavy, grey, and thick I noticed people wearing smog masks on the street, yet in complete contrast they were happy to smoke cigarettes inside nightclubs and bars.

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Train stations in Shanghai are akin to airports, with security machines, ID checkpoints, body scanning and swarms of people. Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station is one of the three major railway stations in China with a total area of 1.3 million square meters, and is the largest railway station in Asia. The system contradicts itself with basic signage in both Mandarin and English, encouraging even the less intrepid traveller to feel at ease, but any automated system like ticket machines or luggage lockers will leave you dumbfounded, frustrated and completely dependent on the help of others. Statistically (according to Wikipedia) the train station waiting hall area is more than 10,000 square meters (107,639 square ft), and is capable of handling 10,000 passengers at the same time. The station serves 210,000 rail passengers per day and is built over 4 floors, plus a metro line (that connects to Pudong airport via the Maglev).

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Trains themselves are comfortable, usually punctual, and efficient. The metro system is very comprehensive and like most transportation options here, is affordable at approx £2 for a day ticket. According to urbanrail.net “The Shanghai metro is among the most rapidly expanding in the world. After the first line opened only in 1995 as a north-south axis from the Central Station to the southern suburbs, by the end of 2015, the Shanghai Metro system had reached a total length of 531.5 km, excluding the Maglev”. That is bigger than the London underground, New York Subway, and the Paris Metro.

 

ITS@WCTR Day 3 – Louise Reardon

Louise Reardon

By Louise Reardon

The 14th WCTRS conference marked a number of firsts for me. My first time in China, my first time at the conference, and the first meeting of the Special Interest Group on Governance and Decision Making Processes that I co-chair with Greg Marsden.

As a political scientist, and relatively new to transport studies, I was worried the Chinese delicacies wouldn’t be my only culture shock but the conference itself, being as it is, the largest congregation of transport academics in the World. However, any concerns I had were soon left only for meal times.

Our session track included 24 papers, covering a wide range of important governance questions; from how to move away from the ‘build it or don’t’ infrastructure paradigm, through to how to develop a participatory planning approach, and how sustainability is operationalised in EU policy.

WCTR Louise Reardon

Presentations from Steven Perkins from the International Transport Forum and Moshe Givoni from Tel Aviv University, provided great stimulus for discussion at our inaugural meeting. Our mind map exercise identified several burning governance questions, and coupled with the knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm of those in the room, has started the momentum for what we hope will be a growing, active, and agenda-setting group within WCTRS and beyond.

Needless to say, I hope this WCTRS wont be my last.

Louise

ITS@WCTR2016 Day 3 – Haneen Khries

By Haneen Khries

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The World Conference on Transport Research Society has a number of initiatives that are aimed at supporting and promoting research done by young transport professionals. One of these initiatives: Activity Y-II, which was first launched in the Rio conference, offers four Ph.D. students additional grants to advance their Ph.D. work or any other transport research they wish to undertake.

I have applied to this initiative and was granted the WCTRS-Young research innovation grant. We started the process of preparing a technical proposal for consideration in this completion in April 2015 and ended it in the July 2016 Shanghai conference, where the society held a special session chaired by professor Yoshi Hayashi, the current WCTRS president, where the four winners presented their grant papers.

In my talk, I presented a paper titled: Critical Issues in Estimating Human Exposure to Traffic-Related Air Pollution: Advancing the Assessment of Motor Vehicle Emissions Estimates. This paper presents an advanced method for developing vehicle average-speed emissions functions, tailored to real-world driving. The functions estimate vehicle emission rates based on the vehicle’s average speed over high resolution ‘micro-trip’ segments. The results indicate that at the lower average speeds emission estimates are significantly different when compared to the widely practiced method across Europe. The application of this method in epidemiological studies where it will be trialled and its relevance to environmental and transport policy was discussed.

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I found this initiative as an excellent opportunity to share my work with the society and attend the conference but also importantly to develop my work and complete a significant chunk of it in preparation for this session. We have both received feedback on our papers, multiple times throughout the review process but also during the session and this has helped improve my work initially but suggestions for potential improvement avenues in the future were made. I am honoured and grateful to have had received this award and hope to capitalize on this with future involvement in the society.

 

ITS@WCTR Day 3 – ITS Alumni event

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WCTR alumni and friends of ITS

There was a particular room at the WCTR conference that was filled with transport professionals all connected with ITS, one way or another. There were international Alumni, a healthy representation of ITS staff and PhD students, and academic visitors alike, all attending an networking event catching up with old friends and making new connections. It is often the case at such international conferences of this scale that people meet so briefly, so it’s important to sometimes stop and properly talk to people who might share your interests, memories or be looking for an academic collaborator.

Our global alumni community reaches far and wide and it was excellent to see Fumio Kurosaki (Japan) and John Dinwoodie (UK) again as well as meeting Sittha Jaensirisak (Thailand) for the first time, in addition to a recent cohort of graduates from China including one of our keynote speakers of the evening Jialiang Guo, alongside Xinghua Zhang, Dayuan Xu, Guoqing Zhang, Bing Li, Jiajun Zhou, Yifan Wang, Xiaojun Shao and Xue Ding. Furthermore, an old friendship was reunited when Alvaro Guzman (Ecuador) joined his old classmate Jonathan Gomez Vilchez (Germany) for the first time since they both graduated in 2010.

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We also had the pleasure of catching up with some of the academic partners who have visited ITS in recent years including Ruth Steiner (University of Florida), Meng Xu (Beijing University), Sanjay Gupta (SPA, New Delhi), Alexa Delbosc & Graham Currie (Monash University, Melbourne) and in his speech ITS Director, Greg Marsden invited all collaborators and alumni to visit ITS, especially when we can showcase our new research centre of excellence building later in the year.

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It was a wonderful event with some really encouraging feedback that our alumni community do appreciate our engagement with them as they feel proud to be part of a global network that keeps in contact with them no matter where they are in the world. Having the opportunity to meet up again at occasions like this reminds them that they have not been forgotten. We look forward to more events with more of our alumni as the global network continues to grow. For more details on how you can get involved as an active alumni please email info@its.leeds.ac.uk

ITS@WCTR Day 2 – Julian Burkinshaw and Alvaro Guzman

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‘A city of extremes’

By Julian Burkinshaw and Alvaro Guzman

Below is a collation of excerpts provided by ITS@WCTR 2016 attendees regarding their experiences of China, Shanghai and the conference itself. The quotes range from people experiencing China for the first time, to others who call Shanghai their hometown. This exercise was undertaken during the second afternoon of the conference.

‘I was expecting Shanghai to be busy, polluted and with crazy traffic. But I was pleasantly surprised that it was not this way’.

The first day in the city showed it was full of ‘Lots of colour, cartoons and characters. Illustrated by quiet parts and busy streets.’ The ‘Humid grey skies with warm, wet rain’ make it feel really ‘Hot, sticky, spicy, walled, yet friendly. It is still growing on us all.’ ‘Yes, I have to admit that the humid and hot weather is driving me crazy, but I kind of enjoy this feeling’. ‘It’s [definitely] hotter and wetter than Leeds’.

It has been ‘…fascinating. Coming together of old and new in architecture, with both chaos and order in transport.’ I am a little bit disturbed about the silent electric bikes riding the footpath.’  ‘I am very impressed with the public transport system, the maglev and the metro network’.

‘Heat. Noise. Great food. Rain. Busy streets. People, people, people, people. High buildings. Fun’. Shanghai is ‘a land of scrawny cats, little side streets and great food – but please people stop staring at me!’. ‘The express ways and the extent it imposes on the city and associated negative impacts on the city and environment’. ‘Too crowded, both in people and developments. Hot and humid. Not well planned urbanisation. Interesting new experience but not my idea of an appealing city’.

‘Back to my home country after 1 year in UK, the food tastes better than I remember’. The weather is so hot, I feel like I just go from winter to summer, like being in a sauna the whole day. Lots of people everywhere I love this place’. ‘The feeling of home and the feeling I’m used to. It’s a great joy to enjoy mother’s cooking and meet with my beloved friends. In a word I love Shanghai’.

‘WCTRS is always so exciting and having it in one of the most exciting cities in the world makes it extra special this year’. ‘Shanghai has been fun so far and I’m looking forward for the next 5 days. It’s really good to go with ITS. I feel proud and great!’

***Thanks to our colleagues for their quotes, thought and time***

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