Why mobile transit supports sustainable urban growth in China’s metropolises

Why mobile transit supports sustainable urban growth in China’s metropolises

Smart City China

China transit factsIn China, traveling by car usually means spending at least some or part of your journey sitting in traffic. There are more cars in China than ever before, and most medium and large cities face major problems with traffic congestion.

Efforts to expand public transport

The situation is so serious, in fact, that several government agencies, including the Ministry of Transport, are encouraging people to drive less and take public transit more. The goal is to reduce congestion and, at the same time, improve air quality and create more livable, more sustainable urban environments.

Since the mid-2000s, China has been investing heavily in the public-transport infrastructure, and the work is showing results. The online statistics portal, Statista, reports that the number of operating subway lines in China’s cities has nearly doubled in recent years, going from 52 in 2010 to 92 in 2014. More than 10 million metro transfers already happen on an average day in Beijing or Shanghai. What’s more, a recent survey found that 60 percent of Chinese citizens agreed that public transportation was easily accessible to them (National Geographic Society, 2015). This is an important finding, since easy access is a key factor in getting people to use public transport.

Taken as a whole, these various trends indicate a move in the right direction, in terms of expanding public transport and increasing ridership, but some big issues still need to be addressed. As the number of passengers continues to climb, transport agencies are struggling to keep up with demand, with the result that rush-hour commutes and other busy times involve fighting for space in tightly packed buses and trains. The infrastructure will have to continue expanding, at a relatively rapid pace, to accommodate the anticipated passenger loads.

Putting more trains, trams, and buses into service will improve the situation, and thereby make public transport more attractive. Going a step further, focusing on other aspects of the passenger experience, beyond the frequency of service and the ability to find a seat, can help increase ridership, too.

Facing a natural technical evolution

For example, China’s passengers are, by and large, tech-savvy consumers who carry smartphones, interact with mobile apps, and, increasingly, use their phones as wallets, to make mobile purchases. China already is the world’s largest smartphone market. Smartphones are the primary portal to the online space, even preferred to personal computers. By taking advantage of the widespread penetration of smartphones with mobile-payment capabilities, China’s public-transport system can offer passengers new levels of convenience, connectivity, and security. The major Chinese smartphone brands as well as the transit authorities of big cities are on full speed to enable mobile transit apps that can be used to purchase tickets, top up transit cards, check the card’s balance and many more.

Mobile-transit transactions are a natural extension of mobile payments, which is something Chinese consumers are very quick to adopt. According to PBoC statistics, 4.5 billion mobile transactions, worth 18 trilling RMB, occurred in the third quarter of 2015 alone.

With the Chinese already using their phones for mobile transactions, the next step is to get them to start using their phones for mobile ticketing, too. That way, China can leverage the widespread use of smartphones to boost support for more sustainable modes of transport and, in the long run, reduce traffic, secure transactions and create more livable cities. Especially in China’s youth culture, mobile transactions are about to become the fashion.

Have you experienced traffic in China? Would having access to a mobile ticketing app have changed your public transport experience?

Related links

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Charles Dachs
Charles Dachs
In his current role as senior director for NXP’s Mobile Transactions product portfolio, Charles Dachs and his team are thinking ahead the requirements for NFC and security in the next generation of mobile devices. Working on advanced and emerging technologies for more than 20 years, Charles Dachs can be called a specialist for NFC in mobile devices, contactless payment, embedded security, smartcards, as well as mobile wallets in particular.

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