Urban Transport Trends and Policies in China and India: Impacts of Rapid Economic Growth

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - environmental impact, land use - impacts, ridership - growth, policy - environment, place - urban


Urban transportation policy, Urban transportation, Trade off analysis, Social impacts, Policy analysis, People's Republic of China, Intracity transportation, India, Environmental impacts, Environmental effects, Economic growth, Comparison studies, China, Case studies, Alternatives analysis


This paper provides a comparative overview of urban transport in the world's two most populous countries: China and India. Cities in both countries are suffering from severe and worsening transport problems: air pollution, noise, traffic injuries and fatalities, congestion, parking shortages, energy use, and a lack of mobility for the poor. The urban transport crisis in China and India results from continuing population growth, urbanization, suburban sprawl, rising incomes, and skyrocketing motor vehicle ownership and use. This paper critically assesses government policies in each country and suggests a range of specific improvements. It advocates a slowdown in the massive roadway investment in recent years and a shift in emphasis to expanding and improving public transport, cycling, and walking facilities. While continued growth in motor vehicle use is inevitable, China and India should restrict motor vehicle use in congested city centres and increase taxes, fees, and charges to reflect the enormous social and environmental costs of motor vehicle use. At the same time, much stricter regulations should be imposed on manufacturers to produce cleaner, more energy-efficient, quieter, and safer cars, motorcycles, buses, and trucks. Mitigating the many social and environmental impacts of rising motorization is obviously important for the future well-being of Chinese and Indian cities. It is also crucial for the future of the rest of the world. Unless the problems of motorization in China and India can be effectively dealt with, the world faces sharp increases in greenhouse gases, accelerating climate change, and rapid depletion of a range of non-renewable resources.