MOBILITY TRANSITION IN CHINA

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SUMP Foshan Pilot: First Implementation of SUMP Concept in China

On 7 July 2021, the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) Foshan pilot was jointly launched by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH together with the Foshan Public Transport Management Company (Foshan TC Company) under the support of the Foshan City Transportation Bureau.

It is the first time the SUMP concept is being applied in China. Commissioned by the Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport (CLCT) project, the SUMP Foshan pilot is implemented by the China Sustainable Transportation Center (CSTC) together with the city of Foshan and with support from Rupprecht Consult, the authors of the EU Guidelines for Developing and Implementing A Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan.

What is a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan?

A “Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan” (SUMP) is a strategic plan designed to satisfy the mobility needs of people and businesses in cities and their surroundings for a better quality of life. It builds on existing planning practices and takes due consideration of integration, participation, and evaluation principles. It aims to promote the sustainable and low carbon development, and to enhance the city’s overall competitiveness and vitality. Compared with traditional transportation planning (see Figure 1), SUMPs emphasize the active involvement of stakeholders and the coordination and cooperation among various sectors including transport, land use, environment, economic development, social policy, health and safety, and energy.

Figure 1 – Differences between traditional transport planning and Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (Picture Source: Rupprecht Consult)

Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning in Foshan

Foshan is located in the Pearl River Delta in South China’s Guangdong province. Foshan is one of nine municipalities (besides Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Huizhou, Zhaoqing, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhuhai), which together with the two Special Administrative Regions (SAR) Hong Kong and Macao form the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) – with an area of 56,000sqkm and a population of about 70 million one of the world’s largest urban agglomerations. Spanning an administrative area of 3,797.72 km², Foshan has a population of about 8 million (the city’s population has almost doubled in the last 20 years and still grows further). With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of EUR 126.6 billion (2018), Foshan is one the most economically developed cities in China, and serves as an important trade centre in the GBA. The city is a central transportation hub and a key part of various regional transport integration and inter-city rail development programs. Together with the provincial capital Guangzhou, it forms the Guangfo Metropolitan Circle, an increasingly interconnected area – the first two cities in China to be connected via metro line – highlighting Foshan’s close engagement with its surrounding area. Foshan is also a historical and cultural centre known for its ceramics, martial arts, and as the birthplace of Cantonese opera.

Figure 2 – Maps of the Greater Bay Area, Guangdong Province (left) and Foshan and its location in (right) (Map Data ©2021 Google)

Foshan is a forerunner in China when it comes to the promotion of sustainable transport. The city has a well-developed public transportation infrastructure: it has the 2nd highest bus network density in China (5.029 km/km²), running 670 bus lines; its public bike-sharing system has over a thousand stations and 35,000 bicycles; but it still ranks only 18th in China in terms of metro line density (0.236 km/km²).[i] To promote green public transport, the city has electrified its bus network, with its 4,000 New Energy Buses served by 39 charging stations with 934 charging poles, and 10 hydrogen energy stations (2019). Particularly cycling has become an increasingly important part of Foshan’s urban transport and mobility system and was accelerated by the uptake of bike-sharing services in recent years. In addition to public transport and cycling, ride-hailing has also been on the rise in Foshan, where companies such as Didi Chuxing, CaoCao, and Shenzhou provide individual mobility solutions. Car-sharing with currently 323 stations and 1,348 cars is also gaining popularity among locals.[ii]

However, there are still challenges facing the development of sustainable mobility in Foshan. Even though the city has already been very ambitious in the implementation of sustainable transport and mobility concepts, it has a strong demand for effective solutions to cope with its growing transport volumes in general (both passenger and freight volumes, the number of cars alone has tripled from 910.000 cars in 2010 to 2.7 million cars in 2020) and for innovative and advanced approaches to foster the more effective and low carbon integration of its urban and transport sector development. Current key challenges include growing congestion levels particularly in the city centre, insufficient facilities for safe and convenient pedestrian crossings, conflicting walking and cycling paths, or excessive demand for parking spaces. Several prevailing challenges are connected to the reliance of residents on individual motorised transport. The number of car trips taken in Foshan has increased by 6.7% between 2017 and 2018, reaching 2.54 million trips per day, roughly twice as much as the number of bus trips.[iii] The private car, despite congestion, improvements to the public transport infrastructure, and the increasing role of shared mobility solutions, is still a popular transport mode (parking, for example, remains relatively cheap or even free in much of the city).

The SUMP Foshan pilot has the aim to support the city of Foshan in its ambition to further promote low carbon, green and human-centred mobility. The specific objectives of the SUMP pilot are: 

  1. Develop a SUMP pilot in Foshan based on the Guidelines for Developing and Implementing A Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP). The Guidelines were already translated into Chinese language by the CLCT project and can be found here.
  2. Provide policy recommendations for the adoption of the SUMP concept in existing planning processes in other Chinese cities, based on the experience of the Foshan pilot project implementation.
  3. Build and implement a Capacity Development Programme on SUMP for the pilot city and other Chinese cities that are part of a Community of Practitioners, including a nation-wide conference and capacity development events.
  4. Establish an expert exchange and knowledge sharing platform to promote the concept of Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning in China.

SUMP Pilot Area

The Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan will be developed in a 287ha area of the Chancheng district, a central area of Foshan, allowing the SUMP to both address the specific challenges and reflect the advantages of a frequented urban centre. The pilot area is especially suitable by being situated near the edge of the district, where lower-end industries are concentrated and both residents and workers largely rely on public transport and active mobility modes. The Kuiqi metro station in the centre of the pilot area has one of the highest passenger volumes on the Guangfo metro line, extending the impact of the SUMP pilot area to travellers to and from neighbouring Guangzhou. The area is characterised by a diversity of low and high density and functionally mixed urban fabrics. With the Huijing park and various waterways, which are located in the pilot area, there is an opportunity to further improve and expand the access of people to open and green spaces. With various primary and secondary schools located in the pilot area, it also allows for a children-friendly development strategy to be employed in the process of the SUMP development.

Figure 3 – The geographical scope of the Foshan SUMP pilot area in Chancheng District
(Picture Source:  CSTC)

The Foshan SUMP pilot team is currently conducting a comprehensive analysis of the status quo of the pilot area to further identify key challenges and advantages of the local context. Following the SUMP circle (see Figure 4), the next steps include the conduction of a field study and data collection, the development of short- and long-term development scenarios, and the elaboration of a common vision, strategy and the respective setting of objectives and indicators. The SUMP also aims to apply strategies for public participation in order to include all stakeholder perspectives and demands into the planning process.

Figure 4 – 12 steps of Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (2nd) Edition – A decision maker’s overview (Picture Source: Rupprecht Consult)

As part of the GBA, which is a China-wide role model region for the integrated development of urban and transport infrastructure planning and construction and in line with the infrastructure development targets of the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area[1], Foshan has a blueprint function for other Chinese cities in particular those in China’s hinterland, which have recently entered intensified urbanization and growth pathways with potential high impacts for China’s total carbon emission development over the next decades (e. g. Yinchuan, Lanzhou, Yibin, Chengdu or Chongqing). Thus, the Foshan SUMP pilot also has the aim to develop a highly visible and advanced role model and best practice solution. By applying the advanced concept of SUMP in Foshan, the pilot also seeks to provide, based on the SUMP Guidelines, a localized planning methodology and replicable approach for Chinese policy makers and planners on national and city level to further align the transport and mobility planning systems. Eventually, it is envisaged that the SUMP methodology can serve as a tool to develop and implement mobility plans in line with China’s overarching goals of promoting green and low carbon transport and mobility in the context of the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), and to peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.[2]

For more information on the Foshan SUMP pilot, please contact Ms Cai Handuo, Technical Advisor at the CLCT project (handuo.cai@giz.de), or Mr Gregor Bauer, Junior Advisor at the CLCT project (gregor.bauer@giz.de).

The Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport project (CLCT) is commissioned by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The CLCT project is implemented by GIZ together with the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China (MoT).


[1] https://www.bayarea.gov.hk/filemanager/en/share/pdf/Outline_Development_Plan.pdf

[2] On 22 September 2020, during his speech at the General Debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, Chinese president Xi Jinping announced that China aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, and during his speech at the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 on December 12, 2020, he announced that China will peak its CO2 emissions before the year 2030.


[i] “2020 China Urban traffic Report,” Baidu Map, January 2021, https://jiaotong.baidu.com/cms/reports/traffic/2020annualtrafficreport/index.html.

[ii] “Foshan New City, China: EcoMobility SHIFT+ Assessment Report,” ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, April 2020, https://sustainablemobility.iclei.org/wpdm-package/ecomobility-shift-assessment-report-foshan-new-city-china/.

[iii] “Foshan Transportation Development Annual Report 2018,” Foshan Urban Planning and Design Institute, March 2020, http://fszrzy.foshan.gov.cn/attachment/0/135/135718/4554263.pdf.


Sino-German Cooperation on Low Carbon Transport

The project supports the Chinese Ministry of Transport (MoT) and Chinese policy-makers on city-level in elaborating effective and efficient implementation strategies to further develop a climate-friendly transport sector. It also supports the Sino-German policy dialogue on long-term climate change mitigation strategies and the potentials of digitalization for climate-friendly transport.