Speeding Toward a New Jiaxing

“There is an ecological apocalypse unfolding in China right now.”[1] The statistics bear the point.

Of the world’s 10 most polluted cities, five are in China. A new coal power plant is built every ten days. The effects on the economy, humans and nature are severe. Pollution and environmental damage have created losses ranging from 7 to 20% of the GDP over the last two decades.

There are approximately 300,000 premature deaths each year attributed to air pollution alone. A quarter of China’s 1.3 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. China has the world’s fastest growing auto market, giving it the notorious label of the world’s leader in vehicle fatalities and second in oil consumption behind the US. Currently, the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, China is on pace to surpass the US in 2008 — some researchers even argue that it already has.

Magnetic levitation train line opened in 2004
Magnetic levitation train line opened in 2004

During the spring 2007 semester, students at Tongji University in Shanghai, China and the University of California, Berkeley in the United States took on this challenge, collaborating on a design studio in Jiaxing, China, a second-tier city 80km outside of Shanghai. The group included undergraduate and graduate students pursuing coursework in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and urban design, as well as faculty and professionals from both countries.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a private foundation based in San Francisco, California provided a grant to the group to explore international urban sustainability. The Jiaxing City Government partnered with our group and posed a set of urban development research questions to the students. The charge was to develop a plan for the City in anticipation of a proposed high-speed rail line connecting the Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Hangzhou, with stops in Shanghai and Jiaxing. As an added challenge, Jiaxing’s station stop was proposed in an agricultural area 10km away from the existing central city. This new rail line could connect Jiaxing to Shanghai in 15 minutes and to the airport in less than a half hour. What would this compression in time and space mean for Jiaxing?

The students identified two major challenges to address: China’s environmental crisis and connecting the proposed rail station to the central city

First, the students proposed a transit corridor between the new station and the existing city center. They recognized the opportunity to create a new hub within the City, but wanted to maximize accessibility to the new station and the central city, to encourage investment in both anchors as well as in the corridor between them.

Second, they proposed an integrated sustainable design strategy for Jiaxing. Adopting the “3 E’s” principles of ecology, economy and equity, they endeavored to improve Jiaxing’s air and water quality, expand renewable energy sources and reduce waste, while maintaining a competitive economy. Moreover, they sought to create an equitable design that would accommodate all types of people, regardless of age, income or other status.

Despite the troubling statistics, there is opportunity to make real improvements in China’s environment, if the government and citizens choose to take on the challenge. Through sustainable design and policy measures, China has the potential to emerge from environmental crisis as an environmental leader. Jiaxing could serve as a model for sustainable development in China, providing its citizens a better life and a more environmentally sound, economically strong and equitable society.

[1] Porritt, Jonathon. “China: The Most Important Story in the World.” Green Futures. September 2006: 3.

Transnational Connection| The Nano City Super Studio, India

Innovative projects often have unusual beginnings.

9In Fall 2006, I received an e-mail from an individual who informed me that he was planning a new city in India. He wanted to meet me to discuss what ideas I may have for such a project. A new city that would be privately built — indeed, the idea made me wonder! Fortunately, my initial instinct to delete the e-mail and to dismiss the idea altogether did not prevail and I agreed to a short meeting with its sender in my office the following week. On the day of the meeting and after a brief Google search, I discovered that I was about to meet Sabeer Bhatia — the co-founder of Hotmail, and one of India’s if not the world’s, most recognized young entrepreneurs.

Bhatia, a graduate of Stanford University, had come to us in Berkeley seeking our expertise to realize his vision for Nano City — a new, sustainable, eco-friendly, and high-tech city in north India. The 11,000 acre site earmarked for the project is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas and within close proximity of the city of Chandigarh in the state of Haryana. By all measure, Bhatia is a dream client: a young visionary whose education and ambition are matched with a social conscience. Having co-founded Hotmail in the 1990s and subsequently selling the corporation for $400 million to Microsoft, he went on to establish other IT companies and develop social ventures beyond technology. Although he came to us mainly for advice about how to pursue his new project, it quickly became clear that his engagement with us was not going to be a passing one.

8Stemming from my conviction that successful projects are a product of a close collaboration between an educated client, a competent designer, and an informed public, I convinced Bhatia that we should pursue the project as a college-wide graduate urban design studio, involving a group of faculty from different specialties. Having now become our client, Bhatia also generously funded the studio which included a site visit by 16 students and 6 faculty members for a 9-day trip to India. While in India, the design team also met with government officials in the state of Haryana and other developers collaborating on the project.

The CED has had a long tradition of conducting Super Studios, which are intense design collaborations for a semester-long project and involving several faculty as supervisors. The tradition harks back to studios conducted by Lars Lerup and Stanley Saitowitz in the 1980s as well as those by Mark Mack, Richard Fernau, and myself in the 1990s. It was indeed time to revive this tradition with the Nano City Super Studio. My enthusiasm for the project as well as that of the students was shared by committed CED faculty such as my colleague Professor Susan Ubbelhode — an expert on the architecture of Chandigarh and frequent visitor to India — who agreed to co-teach this studio. Richard Fernau cut his sabbatical short and participated as a studio critic. Robert Cervero, Chair of the DCRP; Chris Benton, former Chair of Architecture; and Ananya Roy, Professor of City Planning and Associate Dean of International and Area Studies, all agreed to serve as studio consultants by delivering lectures on design and planning policy and by participating in all studio presentations.

When we advertised the studio in late Fall as a joint Architecture, City Planning, and Urban Design course we were inundated with applications from students. Since this was a truly interdisciplinary studio, open to students from the whole college, we selected 16 applicants from the M. Arch, M.C.P., M.L.A., M.U.D., and the PhD programs in Architecture, City Planning, and Landscape Architecture.

Our visit to India was an intense experience yet memorable too. We traveled between Chandigarh, the foothills of the Himalayas, and the urban outskirts of Delhi. On a visit to the proposed project site, Berkeley students demonstrated what it means to immerse oneself in the context that they design for. Refusing to simply travel in the confines of an air-conditioned bus or meet government officials, the group visited a few of the villages on the site and spent a session meeting with and interviewing villagers whose fate would be impacted by the project.

From its onset, the studio emphasized both collaborative effort as well as teamwork in the design process. On our return to Berkeley, students were assigned to teams who then delegated individual tasks to each member. Interdisciplinary methodologies were pursued by addressing the multiple scales of design involved in a project of this nature. The studio started with a week-long intense charette where each student produced a master plan. Following the charette the students were broken down into 8 teams and continued to work in pairs for 3 weeks to produce land-use and master plan solutions. This was followed by an intense 5 week session where 4 teams — each made up of 4 students — focused solely on urban design. Finally, the students were divided into 2 teams, each pursuing alternative master plans and also articulating an architectural strategy of which one was selected as a final master

The final design solution for Nano City proposes a three-phase development model which will ultimately include a small educational sector with campuses of major U.S. universities; a business development sector with headquarters of several technology firms (providing biotechnology, informational technology, and nano services); a major housing development of up to 50,000 small, medium, and large size units; and appropriate commercial and recreational services in order to generate a vibrant mixed-use

The end of the semester may have been an ending to the Nano City Super Studio but today the project continues. Nano City Inc. has accepted the general master plan generated by the studio and has officially hired 10 other Berkeley students to further develop it into a more detailed urban design, under the supervision of a few faculty members. The final master plan of Nano City designed by what is now called B-GAP — the Berkeley Group for Architecture and Planning — will be formally unveiled early in the Fall. It stands as a testament not only to the possibilities of collaboration between the different disciplines within the CED but also to the successful collaboration between clients and designers. Indeed, the Nano City Super Studio attests to the creative potential of a paradigm that believes that political position and social responsibility can deliver design excellence. As we continue with design and development, we look forward to the moment when Nano City will break ground in 2009.

For additional information about the Nano City Super Studio please visit: http://www2.arch.ced.berkeley.edu/courses/arch201_nanocity/

CAR-SHARING | Moving into the mainstream

For decades the American Dream was synonymous with car ownership. The number of vehicles surpassed the number of households in the United States in the 1920s, and currently, around 92% of households own at least one automobile. Even so, many people remain car-free or car-limited.

Thousands of young urban students and professionals chose homes to be close to work, school or transit, and commute, shop, and play mostly by transit, bicycling or walking. Additionally, there are thousands of households which, due to issues of affordability, have fewer vehicles than workers, or have no vehicles at all. On the other hand, there are also many households with extra vehicles which are hardly used. For all of these situations, “car-sharing” – the idea of having access to a car and paying for it only when you need it – provides a suitable option. For young professionals, it can improve mobility on those occasions when a car is needed, when in the past a car would have been rented or borrowed. Similarly, for low income households, it can add mobility at important times when other options are too time-consuming or inconvenient. For households with extra vehicles, selling the vehicle and car-sharing instead can eliminate the costs of ownership for the little-used vehicle.

For all of these reasons and more, car-sharing has taken off in many major U.S. cities. By now, residents in major metropolitan areas probably took notice of the strangely painted shared-car vehicles zipping around. As of 2005, there were 28 car-share systems in 36 cities in North America, with a total membership of over 75,000, and a total shared fleet of over 1100 vehicles. [1] Commercial car-sharing began in Europe in the 1980s and came to the U.S. around 1994. [1]

They all work along similar lines: the car-share operator owns and maintains a fleet of cars, the scheduling system, website, etc. The cars are placed in special, reserved parking spots in various locations in the city. Anyone can become a car-share member (with certain restrictions for those under 21). Members can use any car in the system, as long as it is available. They can check availability of any car by phone or internet and reserve the car at the location for the time frame they desire. Members have a universal key which opens and activates any car in the system. During their reservation period, they can use the car as much as they please. They can extend their reservation during use by phone or internet, as long as the car hasn’t been reserved immediately afterwards by another member. At the end of the month, the member is billed for their use, plus small monthly membership fees, if any. There are certain restrictions that help things run more smoothly; the hefty penalty for a late return helps ensure that users plan realistic reservation times and don’t leave the next user waiting.

Each system has a different system of rates. One local Bay Area operator charges 44 cents per mile and four dollars per hour during the day, or two dollars per hour at night. Another operator charges 8 dollars per hour with no charge for mileage. Some operators offer various types of vehicles and might charge different rates for each vehicle. A number of operators offer car-sharing and compete head-to-head in the different cities, placing competing vehicles right next to each other in a parking lot.

Because car-sharing has the potential to reduce automobile ownership for some, meanwhile increasing access to automobiles for others, the impact of car-sharing on urban travel and the environment is difficult to unravel. Professor Robert Cervero and a team of researchers and students have been working to understand these relationships for the past five years, supported by a Value Pricing Demonstration Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Planning for the opening of City CarShare, a non-profit car-share operator in San Francisco, the team took a longitudinal approach. They tracked a group of car-share members and “non-members” over four years, beginning before the opening of the program, in order to reveal the impacts of car-sharing on travel consumption and vehicle ownership and make strong statements about the impacts of car-sharing.

Those who signed up to immediately join the program formed the “member” group, while those signing up to one day become active members functioned as the “non-member” control group. These non-members were ideal controls because they displayed comparable levels of motivation and interest, having taken the time to sign up for the program, but had not formally joined due to factors like there not being shared vehicles in their neighborhood. The first set of surveys was conducted several weeks before City CarShare’s March, 2001 inauguration. Similar surveys were then conducted of both groups three months, nine months, and two years into the program. The fifth and final set of surveys was conducted in May of 2005. As a result, the research team reached some main conclusions of the work and important implications for urban transportation policy, beginning with trends in car-share usage among members, followed by comparisons between members and non-members.

From the initial March 2001 opening in San Francisco in early to mid-2005, City CarShare grew tremendously. The number of points-of-departure (PODs) grew from 6 to 43, and the number of shared vehicles grew from 12 to 87. Part of this expansion resulted from the introduction of the program to Berkeley and Oakland in 2003. Active membership in City CarShare has trended upwards from over 1800 in September 2002 to 3800 in May 2005. The monthly average number of reservations grew from less than a thousand during the first year to well over 5000 by mid-2005. Members logged 106,000 miles in CarShare vehicles in the month of May, 2005.

The most common purpose for car-sharing was shopping, followed by social-recreational travel and personal business, with work trips constituting only around 10% of car-share trips. Around two-thirds of CarShare trips were made by the driver alone, with no passengers. The highest vehicle occupancies were for trips to school (nearly 2 persons), and the least discretionary trips were made mainly by solo-drivers. CarShare users were asked what modes they would have otherwise taken had car-sharing not been available. Interestingly, respondents claimed that 30% of trips would likely not have been made. For trips that would have been made, car-sharing draws more trips from public transit than any other modal option. To access shared cars, most walked (78%), took transit (14%), or biked (6%).

Looking at overall travel patterns, car-sharing made up 4.8% of members’ total daily trips, up from 2.2% three months into the program but down from 8.1% at the nine-month mark. Adjusting for trip length, car-sharing made up 5.4% of total vehicle miles travelled (VMT) by members. The overall most popular form of conveyance by members – representing 47.6% of all trips – was “non-motorized” (i.e., walking or cycling). Non-members were twice as likely to use a private car, and significantly less likely to take transit, compared to members. Members generally took “green modes” to work or school: nearly 90% of their journeys to work or school were by public transit, foot, or bicycle – a far higher share than for non-members. Members and non-members also differed in how they made shopping, social, and personal business trips, with members more likely to take transit or non-motorized modes. Most members and non-members have a transit pass, own a bicycle and many clearly have options for private car travel. Non-members were slightly more likely than members to have off-street parking (56% versus 41%).

City CarShare’s first wave of members were found to be fairly unrepresentative of the Bay Area’s and even San Francisco’s population, drawn disproportionately from professional-class residents who did not own cars and who lived either alone or in non-traditional households. This pattern generally held four years after City CarShare’s inception. In 2005, whites made up 82.8% of surveyed members (considerably above the 49.6% and 48.8% share for San Francisco and Alameda County, respectively). Members’ median annual personal income of $58,150 was above the census averages for San Francisco as well as the East Bay. Car-share membership also ran in the family: 32.6% of surveyed members’ reported another City CarShare member in the household.

In 2005, 62.8% of members were from zero-vehicle households and 28.7% were from one-vehicle households. Thus, 91.5% were from 0-1 vehicle households – above the 83.3% share during the program’s first year and well above the average of 70.6% for all San Francisco households. Members were half as likely as non-members to have acquired a vehicle, and about as likely to have reduced car ownership since 2001. Consequently, for every 100 member households, about 7 net vehicles were shed, while for every 100 non-member households, about 3 net vehicles were added during the period.

Compared to the first survey (“pre-car-share” — February 2001) and the fourth survey (“second anniversary” – March 2003), mean daily travel distances of City CarShare members fell slightly by the 2005 survey. For non-members, they rose over the long-term but largely stabilized over the 2003-2005 period. None of these changes, however, were statistically significant. Mean travel times steadily fell for both groups over the three survey periods, although more rapidly for non-members. Average travel speeds rose markedly among members, in part from the substitution of City CarShare trips for travel formerly by foot, bicycle and transit. In effect, car-sharing has enhanced mobility, allowing members to conveniently reach more destinations in and around San Francisco.

During City CarShare’s first two years, average daily travel (VMT) fell slightly for members yet increased for non-members. In order to understand differences in the mix of modes and occupancy of the vehicles by members and non-members, we adjusted the mileage to make a Mode-adjusted-VMT (MVMT). For example, a mile by transit or carpool was discounted compared to a mile as a solo driver because of the differences in environmental impacts. For members, MVMT fell by 67% over the long term (2001 to 2005) and by 38% over the intermediate term (2003 to 2005). Such declines were a combination of not only shifts to “green modes” and shorter travel, but also relatively high occupancy levels for private car trips, including those in City CarShare vehicles. MVMT for non-members rose in the first two years but like with members, appear to have fallen some since 2003.

Accounting for the differences in fuel economies among personal cars used by members and non-members, as well as the shared cars (which include mostly small cars and hybrids), members’ average daily fuel consumption fell steadily during the program’s first four years. This likely reflected a combination of members reducing private car ownership, switching to more fuel-efficient City CarShare vehicles, and carrying passengers for many car-share trips. By comparison, mean fuel consumption rose among non-members during the first two survey periods and fell during the 2003-2005 period.

Before and after comparisons from the first four years of the City CarShare program reveal declines in travel consumption among members compared to non-members. While most of these declines attributable to car-sharing accrued during the first several years in recent years levels of travel suppression appear to have stabilized or perhaps slightly reversed themselves. This makes sense – a typical member can only reduce travel so much. Though averages level off, as membership grows, the total impact of car-sharing continues to grow accordingly.

A statistical model of car ownership shows that membership in City CarShare and living near a POD significantly increases the likelihood that an individual lives in a car-free household. In a model of changes in car ownership, member status significantly predicts a reduction in car ownership during the period from 2001 to 2005. Similarly, having a transit pass and having at least one POD near one’s residence were both associated with net declines in household cars. Overall, members were half as likely as non-members to have acquired a vehicle during the 2001 to 2005 period and about equally as likely to have reduced car ownership since 2001. In essence, for every 100 member households, about 7 vehicles were shed, while for every 100 non-member households about 3 vehicles were added during the period. A statistical model of the choice of using car-sharing or otherwise for a trip revealed that members were less likely to choose car-sharing for work trips and that car-sharing decreased with increasing numbers of vehicles owned per household member. In this light, car-sharing is seen to be self-reinforcing: it facilitates the reduction in the number of private vehicles in the household, which in turn induces more car-share use.

Statistical models showed that City CarShare membership was associated with a reduction in daily VMT after controlling for respondents’ socio-economic characteristics. All else being equal, City CarShare membership predicted lowered daily travel by 7 vehicle miles (equal to about 1/3 gallon of gas per day per member). Additionally, the model showed that residing in San Francisco (compared to the East Bay) predicted a reduction in travel by 3 miles, owning a bicycle cut travel an additional 4 miles, while on the other hand, every additional car owned per household member raised daily VMT by 13 miles. The combination of being a City CarShare member, owning a bicycle, and reducing car ownership all serve to shrink a household’s ecological footprint in the San Francisco Bay Area. Increasing the net impact of car-sharing can only be achieved by adding more members.

Based on the five surveys of City CarShare members and non-members, there is clear evidence of sustained net reductions in car-share members’ VMT and fuel consumption some four years into the City CarShare program, due mainly to shorter, higher occupancy, and reduced private car travel during the first several years of the program. In relative terms, the biggest long-term environmental benefits of car-sharing in the San Francisco Bay Area came from reduced gasoline consumption, followed by VMT reductions, and reduced travel distances. Car-share members’ propensities to walk, bike, take public transit, and when they drive, to have other occupants in the vehicle, largely account for these sustained benefits. Reduced travel was matched by increased accessibility afforded to those who joined City CarShare. Rising personal benefits matched by declining social costs (declining VMT, fuel consumption, vehicle ownership) suggests car-sharing is a “win-win” proposition – benefiting users and non-users alike.

The circularity between car-share membership and car-shedding is not unlike that of car ownership and induced travel. Membership was associated with reduced car ownership, and reduced car ownership was associated with more car-share travel. It was not just average VMT that fell among members relative to non-members. Because car-share vehicles tend to be small, fuel-efficient, and carry several people, per capita levels of gasoline consumption and accordingly greenhouse gas emissions have also trended downwards. Mindful of the cumulative costs of driving, car-share members, we believe, have also become more judicious and selective when deciding whether to use a car, take public transit, walk, bike, or even forgo a trip.

These results point to important implications for larger urban planning issues. Car-sharing could become an important component to improving mobility for low-income families, without the heavy burden of vehicle ownership costs. It could also delay or reduce the acquisition of vehicles by young urban residents who may have growing mobility needs as incomes rise. There are also important synergies with urban development to consider. While infill and transit oriented developments are growing in importance in most metropolitan areas in the country, pressures remain on developers to supply parking at traditionally high rates, reducing the cost effectiveness and profitability of potential projects. Car-sharing has been shown to reduce vehicle ownership rates among members, and may become an important element to infill proposals with lower parking to unit ratios. Indeed, at least one large housing project in San Francisco house City CarShare vehicles in exchange for lower parking requirements. Furthermore, project proposals involving car-sharing may strengthen their case for approval because it can be shown that car-share users tend to travel more judiciously and reduce their negative traffic impacts.

For all of these reasons and more, car-sharing is growing beyond just a niche and becoming a common site across the country. And with further urban infill development, rising gas prices, and growing environmental concerns, the market potential is likely to grow. And with that growth comes lower parking pressures, traffic, fuel use and improved travel options for households with a wide range of travel needs.

1. Shaheen, S. and A. Cohen (2005) CARSHARING IN NORTH AMERICA:MARKET GROWTH, CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS, AND FUTURE POTENTIAL. TRB, Washington D.C..

This research was supported by a Value Pricing Demonstration Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. We thank the staff of City CarShare, Billy Charlton of the San Francisco Transportation Authority, Mike Mauch of Institute for Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley, and Mike Duncan and Chris Amado from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Urban and Regional Development for their help with this research.