Managing Mobility in China

11.S946 Managing Mobility in China: Transportation Research Seminar

Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT, Fall 2014

Wed 9:00-11:00; 9-450B; Credits: 2-0-7


Jinhua Zhao

Office hour: Thu 2-4pm, 9-523

How Were Ideas Born?

This seminar dissects ten research projects from head to toe to illustrate how ideas are initiated, framed, analyzed, evidenced, written, presented, criticized, revised, extended, and hopefully published, quoted and applied! In parallel the course engages students in designing and executing their own transportation research.

How Will China Move? Managing Mobility for China’s Urban Billion

The rapid urbanization and economic growth in China uniquely characterize her transportation challenges and corresponding solutions. Extraordinary growth calls for extraordinary measures. Chinese cities offer many such examples: from building 15 Beijing subway lines in 15 years to investing two trillion RMB on high speed rail; from restricting half of Beijing vehicles during the Olympics to charging over USD10,000 to register a Shanghai car license through auction. Boldness in both infrastructure development and policy design seems commonplace in China’s transportation arena. This course, however, will present the subtleties in these bold designs through ten examples.           

·            Four projects examine mobility behavior and attitude evolution: 1) the rise and decline of bicycles; 2) Chinese car pride and car dependence, and their impacts on behavior; 3) public attitude towards transportation policies and preference variation based on different frames of reference; 4) mobility changes from Danwei to suburbanization to transit oriented development.

·            Five projects assess transportation policies: 1) contrasting efficiency and equity orientations between three automobile management models in Shanghai (bidding to drive: vehicle license auction), Beijing (superficial fairness of the license lottery), and Guangzhou (behavioral economics experiment of a hybrid model); 2) how governments gauge public attitude and use price as a signal for policy fine-tuning; 3) what has not worked in China’s public transit; 4) purposeful policy leakage: legitimacy and intentionality of non-local vehicles; and regionalism: balancing art of city openness and congestion management; 5) policy design and optimal policy mixture.

·            The 10th project focuses on high speed rail and discusses capacity constrained accessibility and the dispersion of agglomeration through high speed rail.

The course starts and ends with the speculations of the (im)possibility of sustainable transportation in China and a glimpse of hope.

Sister Courses

“Urbanizing China” and “Mobility Management in China” alternate between years as sister courses.