Transportation Deployment Casebook/2014/Guangzhou Bus Transit

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Qualitative Analysis[edit]

Mode Description[edit]

Guangzhou is the provincial capital of Guangdong Province and the third largest city in China, functioning as the political, economic, educational, technological and cultural center of Guangdong. Guangzhou is located at the south of mainland China, close to the estuary of the Pearl River.[1] The urban public transit system of Guangzhou City consists of four components: rail transit, bus transit, taxis and ferry.[2] Our analysis will be focused on Guangzhou’s bus transit system.


According to the 2013 Statistical Yearbook of Guangzhou, by the end of 2012, the amount of buses at Guangzhou is 11,911, the length of bus routes is 14990 kilometers and the ridership is over 2.6 billion person-times. [3] Yuexiu District, Baiyun District and Tianhe District are the top three districts with the largest amount of bus routes. [4] The passenger flow volume of Guangzhou bus transit varies greatly at different occasions in a day, presenting an obvious tidal phenomenon. At peak times, buses could be extremely crowded and slow. However, compare to Guangzhou Metro, bus transit has a larger coverage and slightly cheaper price (the fare of Guangzhou Metro increases with distance). In general, Guangzhou Bus Transit System serves as the most important public transport means at Guangzhou.

Privious Scene[edit]

Trace back to the end of the 19th century, before the advent of bus transit, the main means of public transport at Guangzhou was first sedan chairs and then cycle rickshaws introduced from Japan, both of which were man-powered. In 1921, several operating companies for cycle rickshaws, Liyuan, Dayi, Anle, etc., were founded at Guangzhou. Those companies owned more than 200 cycle rickshaws and hired hundreds of workers.[5] Cycle rickshaws had advantages like cheap prices, able to pick up passengers at any place, so for a long period of time (even after the birth of bus transit), cycle rickshaws dominated the public transport market at Guangzhou. However, they had certain disadvantages too, like the limitation of passenger capacity, low speed and comfort level, less able to handle bad weather and poor road condition, etc. As the growth of population and expansion of urban areas at Guangzhou as well as very low private vehicle holdings, a new means of public transport with high capacity and efficiency was in urgent need.

The Birth of Guangzhou Bus Transit[edit]

It was not until 1922 that the first public bus company, the Canada Bus Company, was founded at Guangzhou. At that time, an overseas Chinese merchant, Shoushi Jiang, bought 15 old freight cars from Canada, and converted them into 8-seat buses with canopies and bench seats, called “Canada”. [6] Regardless of the travel distance, the fare of Canada was always one cent, and that made it popular among ordinary citizens. At the birthing phase, the main competitors of Guangzhou’s bus transit were the cycle rickshaws, which were protected by some policies made by Guangzhou Government (which will be discussed in the Policy section). Due to bad management, Canada Bus Company lost 20,000 Yuan after operating for the first year. Shoushi had even had to sell off the company owning to heavy losses and government restrictions, though a few years later he bought it back when the bus market got on the right track.


Early Market Development[edit]

The initial failure of Canada did not cover up the huge demand and great prospect of bus transit at Guangzhou, and many bus companies sprang following Canada. By 1926, there were more than 20 bus companies at downtown Guangzhou.[7] In 1928, Guangzhou Government divided three bus routes: the red line, from Guangzhou Railway Station to Puji Bridge; the yellow line, from Huangsha to Dongshan Park; the green line, from Puji Bridge to Daxin Company. In the following year, because of the increasing amount of buses, it was difficult to distinguish lines solely by color, so the government had changed to use numbers to indicate routes.

At July 20, 1933, Guangzhou began to use buses as public transit means, while before that time buses were owned and operated by private companies only. In that year, with the construction of Haizhu Bridge, two new bus lines across the south and north shores were opened, the west one from Central Park to Tao-Yuan and the east one from Guangda Road to Southport. The two lines were the earliest bus transit lines connecting two shores of the Pearl River, and 16 public buses were put into operation on these lines. [8] By 1935, public bus lines at downtown Guangzhou had increase to 15 lines, and the amount of public buses had increased to 170, shuttling back and forth through every corner. At the same time, several hundreds of long-distance passenger coaches served as the main means linking suburban areas with downtown Guangzhou. Many coaches would stop once they saw a passenger weaving, just like taxis, which gained themselves a nickname “Pheasant Cars”. These expansions and changes had created new demands for bus transit while competing with cycle rickshaws, since cycle rickshaws did not apply to long-distance travel within urban areas.

During World War Two, Guangzhou’s bus transit has gone through a recession, with about only 40 buses remaining.[9] After the war, in Nov. 1946, Guangzhou Time Public Bus Company was founded. Guangzhou Time owned 156 buses, which were mainly refitted non-brand cars from US, UK and Canada. Those buses had wooden platforms and short car bodies, and used charcoal as fuel, so it was also called jokingly “matchboxes”. Then came the so-called War of Liberation, and the bus industry in Guangzhou again fell into a regression.

The Role of Policy in Birthing Phase[edit]

As we mentioned earlier, during the birthing phase, the main competitors of buses were cycle rickshaws, and this competition seemed unfair for bus companies, because the local government at that time had posted several protective policies against them. Those regulations included the total number of buses for each bus company must be held between under 15, and each bus could accommodate no more than 30 passengers. In addition, at first buses were restricted to one fixed route, from the Financial Hall to Puji Bridge, until 1928. [10] The object of these policies was to protect the basic living of rickshaw drivers, most of who were destitute persons.

Like many other nascent modes in developing countries, Guangzhou Bus Transit was growing with painful experience. At the very beginning, all buses at Guangzhou were tuned from old freight cars from western countries, and most had quite inferior quality. What’s more, most buses drivers lacked driving experience and were very reckless on the road, and overloading happened occasionally. Therefore, Guangzhou’s buses had triggered frequent accidents during the first few years, including crashing into passengers or even knocking down residents’ houses, which drawn some panics among Guangzhou citizens, and buses were given a nickname “city tigers”. As a response, in June 1923, the municipal administration committee issued a policy that banned the operation of “city tigers”. [11] For the following several years, bus companies had to use their buses as vans. While restrained the initial growth of bus transit to some extent, these strict regulation policies had ensured the operation of this newborn transport mode was under full control. In addition, not all the policies were against the development of bus companies. Guangzhou government also constructed a lot of new roads connecting urban areas, which provided convenience for the expansion of bus routes.

Rebirth and Growth after the foundation of PRC[edit]

On Oct. 1st, 1949, People’s Republic of China was founded. Thirteen days later on Oct 14th, Guangzhou was taken over by PRC Government.[12] By that time, there were about 240 buses owned by private companies and 12 bus lines at Guangzhou.[13] In Nov. 1949, the vehicle administration office of Guangzhou launched the first state-run bus, refitted from a bus captured from Kuo Min Tang (KMT) Government. There were all sort of public transport modes in Guangzhou at that time, including matchboxes, cycle rickshaws, taxis, tricycles, etc., operated by either private companies or the state government, or both. This chaotic situation ended by Sep. 8th, 1952, when Guangzhou First Public Bus Company was founded, and that is seen as the start of Guangzhou’s public-operated bus transit. At first there were only 60 non-brand beat-up buses powered by charcoaling. Aiming at improving such a situation, Guangzhou Government introduced 44 Icarus buses from Hungary in 1954.[14] Icarus was probably the best-looking buses at that time, but owning to its outdated diesel engines, it would have very intense vibrations during operating, so about 10 years later Icarus soon stepped down from the stage of bus history at Guangzhou. Later in 1957, the first batch of buses, which was powered by gasoline and made in China, arose at Guangzhou, and from then on domestically made buses had gradually dominated the bus market. Buses back then had a quite square outline, looking rigid and cumbersome, and was called “big coffin”. By the end of 1970s, Guangzhou had 894 public buses and 119 bus lines (including 17 night lines). During 1950s to 1970s, Guangzhou Bus Transit had the following features: bus stop announcements were announced by conductors, since there were no broadcast on buses back then; bus fare increased with distance, and was calculated and charged by conductors; the placement of stop boards lacked standardization and was difficult to find.

Since the well-known Reform Development in 1978, transition from socialist planned economy to market economy had taken place throughout China, and Guangzhou Bus Transit had stepped into a new flourishing phase. In 1980, the bus company at downtown Guangzhou merged with newly-founded companies at suburbs, and formed the first and second public bus companies, and managed downtown and suburban bus lines separately. In 1984, employees of the first public bus company raised funds and bought new buses to form a special line bus fleet. Innovation was also attached great importance. By 1993, Guangzhou started to try out self-service ticketing on buses, which established a precedent throughout China, and at the same time Guangzhou Bus Factory had also gone into its heyday. The demand for buses greatly exceeded supply, and if a company were to buy a bus, they would even have to turn to some insiders for help. (Though later Guangzhou Bus Factory failed to adjust itself to a more competing open market and eventually went bankrupt.) Later in June 1994, air-conditioned buses emerged at Guangzhou, which again was the earliest attempt in China.

By Aug. 1995, an in-depth reform in the management system took place at Guangzhou Bus Transit System. The bus lines and special line buses of the First Public Bus Company were redistricted, and the Third Public Bus Company was founded and in charge of the operation and management of special lines. By this time the total amount of buses at Guangzhou almost doubled, compared to that during the early dates of Reform Development, and Guangzhou’s bus ownership per 10,000 citizens was ranked the first in China. Policies from Guangzhou government had cleared the obstacles and significantly promoted the development of Guangzhou Bus Transit, such as the introduction of foreign capital to fill the fund gaps, learning advanced management experience, etc.

From 2002, Guangzhou government began to pay more attention to the environmental impact of buses, and started a “Green Transport” project. The main content of this project was to test the operation of LPG green cars and gradually promote clean energy. By the end of 2007, 6759 buses have changed to use clean energy at Guangzhou.

In July 2004, the First Public Bus Company was restructured as Yiqi Bus Co. Ltd, half by government capital and half by private capital. It was the first restructured state-owned enterprise at Guangzhou Bus Transit System. Later in 2007, buses companies at Guangzhou had gone through another great reshuffle. Under the guidance of Guangzhou government, several state-owned and private companies were combined into Guangzhou First, Second and Third Bus Co. Ltd (please notice these companies are not the same as former ones, though they have almost the same names).[15] The integration of bus resources had reinforced control power of government capital and provided a good foundation for the optimization of bus lines, decreasing disorderly competitions among bus companies and maintaining the order of bus market.

Subsequent Growth: Advent of GBRT System[edit]

On Feb. 10th, 2010, Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit (GBRT) System was formally launched. GBRT has 51 BRT bus lines and 26 pairs of bus stations, and is the biggest BRT System in Asia as well as the second biggest all over the world (the TransMilenio BRT system in Bogota is the biggest). What’s more, GBRT also contains world’s longest BRT station-the Normal University and Jinan University Station.

According to the data from Guangzhou Transportation Department, since 2010, the average daily passenger volume has reached 850,000 person-times, and 960,000 at highest.[16] In order to ease the high concentration of passenger volume during peak hours, GBRT adopts several flexible scheduling modes, including dynamic tailgating, static staggering, direct rapid line and short line, empty buses pitching-in, etc., and therefore optimizes the efficiency of system. For the management part, GBRT comprehensively uses advanced information technology to build BRT integrated information platform and dispatching system, ticketing system, automatic sliding door system at stations, station and passenger information service system, etc., and thus uniformly manages and monitors GBRT’s operation and significantly improves the efficiency of management.

By the statistics, since the opening of GBRT, the average running speed of buses within the BRT lanes increases to 23 km/h, 84% faster than the speed before GBRT’s birth; citizen’s waiting time has decreased by 15%, travel time decreased by 29%; the average speed of social vehicles along the BRT lanes has also increased from 13.9 km/h to 17.8 km/h, which indicates a win-win situation between BRT buses and social vehicles.[17] At the same time, due to the closed-off management strategy of GBRT stations, the waiting environment of citizens becomes safer and better organized. For example, the canopies at GBRT stations have prevented passengers from exposing to the sun and rain while waiting.

In addition, GBRT does well in connecting with other transport systems. Now GBRT bus lines have four transferring stations: Sports Center, Shipai Bridge, Gangding, Chebei, and the four BRT stations has realized seamless joints to the metro stations, which offers great convenience for BRT passengers to transfer to metro. On top of that, there are a lot of public bicycle service stations and parking facilities along the BRT lines, which is the highlight of GBRT. That enables the seamless joint between GBRT system and the public bicycle system, and thus extends the service coverage of BRT. Bicycle rides could ride to service stations and park their bicycles near BRT stations, and then takes GBRT to get to the downtown area.

Present Constraints and Possible Solutions[edit]

While rapidly developing, Guangzhou Bus Transit System is faced with some new challenges. First, with the constant growth and the increasing density of population at Guangzhou, the urban land becomes more and more scarce, and that sets higher requirement for the construction of bus stations. Second, as the urban area of Guangzhou keeps on extending to all directions, the travel distance for bus transit is inclined to increase. Third, the advent and growth of Guangzhou Metro has put forward new requirements for the layout of bus stations, and planners must consider the convenience of transferring between different transportation modes.

There are also many existing flaws in Guangzhou Bus Transit System. First of all, due to the speedy development of urban road networks and the increase of citizens’ income, the amount of motor vehicles at Guangzhou, especially private vehicles increases rapidly, and that has cause serious traffic jam during peak hours, which greatly slows down the operation of buses. Moreover, the layout of bus line networks has many deficiencies. Bus lines seriously overlap with each other at downtown areas, while at some remote areas the networking density is quite low or even forming dead zones. In addition, the joint between regular buses and other transit modes is insufficient. Walking distance is too far between some transferring stations, and transferring from metro to buses will usually cost passengers a long waiting time.[18]

In response to current flaws and to handle with potential problems, a variety of measures could be taken to improve existing bus transit system. First, a multi-level bus station system could be built to help join bus transit with other modes. Second, the layout of bus networks should be carefully optimized, and peak express and special feeder to metro stations could be established. Finally, the government could use administrative power to restrict private vehicles in order to relieve the traffic pressure, like odd-and-even license plate rule and traffic control during rush hours.

Quantitative Analysis[edit]

Data Source[edit]

For the quantitative analysis, we will use the annual ridership of Guangzhou Bus Transit System to test the estimation model. The actual annual ridership data are obtained from Guangzhou Statistical Yearbook from 1949 to 2013, and are presented in Table 1. The unit of ridership is million person-times.

Year Ridership Year Ridership Year Ridership
1949 29.9 1970 335.08 1991 678.04
1950 35.84 1971 361.75 1992 684.26
1951 39.89 1972 406.15 1993 651.64
1952 39.16 1973 448.6 1994 742.64
1953 58.44 1974 522.57 1995 811.13
1954 64.91 1975 552.66 1996 902.7
1955 67.72 1976 605.49 1997 1073.56
1956 95.03 1977 627.66 1998 1223.85
1957 125.79 1978 676.57 1999 1525.83
1958 141.04 1979 747.93 2000 1547.74
1959 201.13 1980 841.01 2001 1782.16
1960 251.7 1981 868.55 2002 1974.49
1961 269.26 1982 899.47 2003 1906.59
1962 276.77 1983 899.7 2004 1965.05
1963 235.5 1984 902.47 2005 1842.89
1964 236.23 1985 903.72 2006 1829.16
1965 255.56 1986 844.11 2007 2356.29
1966 321.88 1987 816.19 2008 2461.32
1967 345.42 1988 836.59 2009 2422.0
1968 260.53 1989 785.38 2010 2501.96
1969 313.2 1990 700.06 2011 2528.46

Table 1: Annual Ridership of Guangzhou Bus Transit

Methodology[edit]

A three parameter logistic model will be used to simulate the life-cycle of Guangzhou Bus Transit System. The basic equation is:

S(t) = K/[1+exp(-b(t-t0)]

where:

S(t) is the predicted annual ridership

t is the time (year)

t0 is the inflection time (year in which 1/2 K is achieved, t0=intercept/-b)

K is the saturation status level

b is a coefficient (the slope for regression).

Estimate K Value[edit]

According to the actual annual ridership data, we can see that the ridership of Guangzhou Bus Transit is still growing and has not reached the saturation level. Therefore, if we intend to use the estimation equation, values of K and b need to be estimated. Here we set the estimated values of K as 2800 to 4000, incremented by 100 on each step. For each K value, calculation is conducted for each year using the equation: Y=LN(Ridership/(K-Ridership)). The calculation results of different K values are presented in Table 2. When R-square reaches its max value, the corresponding K will be the most fitted.

Table 2: Analyze Results for Different K Values

From Table 2 we can see that when K=3500, the value of R-square is largest (closest to 1.0), thus here we assume K's value is 3500 million person-times. The corresponding values of intersect and slope are -151.821 and 0.075858, and t0=2001.394.

Regression Result[edit]

Using the Regression Analysis tool of Excel, we could calculate the regression parameters when K=3500, including t-statistics, R-square, etc. The result is presented in Table 3.

Table 3: Regression Result

S-Curve and Analysis[edit]

The S-curve that simulates the birthing, growth and maturity phase of Guangzhou Bus Transit System is presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1: S-curve of Guangzhou Bus Transit Annual Ridership


According to the S-curve, we can see that compared to 10 years ago, the annual ridership of bus transit at Guangzhou has grown by over 25%. That indicates Guangzhou Bus Transit System, though already has more than 90 years’ history, is still at the growth stage and will not reach its mature phase within a short time. Referring to the predicted S-curve, the mature phase of Guangzhou Bus Transit System will come no earlier than the 2050s, which is over 30 years later. In addition, since the estimated t0=2001.35, which is the occasion with fastest growth, we could infer that the momentum of growth (or say, the accelerated speed of growth) of Guangzhou Bus Transit System will decrease in the following years. However, we should bear in mind that this graph only shows the trend of annual ridership, the average travel time and distance of bus transit at Guangzhou may not follow this trend.

Compare the predicted annual ridership with the actual data, we could notice that there has almost always been a gap except the birthing phase. (1) From early 1970s to late 1980s, the actual ridership is over the predicted. That's the time when the Reform Development in China first took place, and Guangzhou was a direct beneficiary. Lots of foreign funds flew into Guangzhou, and industries there had gone through a rapid growth, which attracted a huge number of labors. With low income, those labors might have no choice but to take public transit when they needed to travel inside the city. (2)From late 1980s to early 2000s, the actual ridership is below the predicted. The main reason for that, I guess, is the improvement of residents' living standards and the advent of Guangzhou Metro. More and more families could afford to buy private cars, but at that time the overall vehicle possessing rate of Guangzhou citizens was still low, so there was not many traffic jams on the road as today, which gave people incentive to travel with their own cars. The emergence of Guangzhou Metro also provided an alternative for residents. (3)From 2008 till now, the actual ridership is again over the predicted, and the biggest gap happens at 2010, the year GBRT was opened. During this stage, traffic jams and congestion becomes increasing severe, and the living pressure at Guangzhou is also increasing, so a lot of young people give up the option to buy their own car and turn to use public transit. What's more, the opening of GBRT has also lifted the convenience and efficiency of Guangzhou Bus Transit to a new level.

References[edit]

  1. http://baike.baidu.com/subview/6771/10628575.htm?fr=aladdin
  2. Guangzhou Department of Transport "Report on the Development of Guangzhou Public Transport"
  3. Statistical Yearbook of Guangzhou, http://data.gzstats.gov.cn/gzStat1/chaxun/njsj.jsp
  4. Guangzhou Department of Transport "Report on the Development of Guangzhou Public Transport"
  5. Memory of Guangzhou-Roads and Buses, (Chinese) 广州的记忆-马路和公交车 http://www.360doc.com/content/13/1118/12/2016686_330195069.shtml
  6. Memory of Guangzhou-Roads and Buses, (Chinese) 广州的记忆-马路和公交车 http://www.360doc.com/content/13/1118/12/2016686_330195069.shtml
  7. Early buses at Guangzhou, http://www.guangzhou.gov.cn/node_437/node_439/node_619/2005-06/111846777652123.shtml
  8. Early buses at Guangzhou, http://www.guangzhou.gov.cn/node_437/node_439/node_619/2005-06/111846777652123.shtml
  9. Zijin Wang, "100 Years' History of China's Transport" [M] 1994-2014 China Academic Journal Electric Publishing House
  10. Memory of Guangzhou-Roads and Buses, (Chinese) 广州的记忆-马路和公交车 http://www.360doc.com/content/13/1118/12/2016686_330195069.shtml
  11. Memory of Guangzhou-Roads and Buses, (Chinese) 广州的记忆-马路和公交车 http://www.360doc.com/content/13/1118/12/2016686_330195069.shtml
  12. http://baike.baidu.com/subview/50582/5376310.htm?fr=aladdin
  13. Guangzhou Department of Transport "Report on the Development of Guangzhou Public Transport"
  14. Guangzhou Department of Transport "Report on the Development of Guangzhou Public Transport"
  15. Guangzhou Daily: "The great change in Guangzhou's public transport"
  16. Minglin Zhao: "One BRT, a relief to the city" [N] China Transport News, Dec. 14, 2012, P 005
  17. Jiantong Zhao: "Research on Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit evaluation system" [D] Lanzhou University, Mar. 2012
  18. Hua Chang: "Current Situation and Future Development of Guangzhou Bus Transit" [J] Traffic and Transport, Apr. 2008