Yichang is a prefecture-level in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Hubei province’s second largest city after Wuhan, the provincial capital. While as of the end of 2011, its urbanization rate was well below the national average, its urban population was forecasted to increase to 2.8 million by 2030 due to continuing migration. Major investments in urban infrastructure, transport, and related services, including an affordable and efficient public transport system coupled with safe and attractive nonmotorized transport system, were therefore needed to accommodate the growing population and support sustainable urbanization and inclusive growth.
Against this backdrop, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), at government’s request, approved a $150 million loan for Hubei-Yichang Sustainable Urban Transport Project in August 2013. The project sought to contribute to inclusive growth and environmentally sustainable development in the province by improving the efficiency and sustainability of urban transport and promoting more efficient freight logistics. Its envisaged impact was an efficient, inclusive, and sustainable transport system in Yichang, while its expected outcome was provision of efficient passenger and freight transport. Planned outputs included (i) a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, (ii) nonmotorized transport (NMT) facilities along the BRT corridor and at key intersections, (iii) road network improvement, and (iv) capacity building and quality assurance.
The BRT system was completed as designed and 1 year ahead of schedule. It connects the main residential and business districts with the city’s new logistics and industrial park and the high-speed railway station and includes dedicated, center-running bus lanes, fully enclosed BRT stations, bus management and information systems, a fare collection system, and parking management along the BRT corridor. NMT facilities, including pedestrian and bicycle lanes and bicycle parking and sharing stations, were constructed as planned. These helped improve accessibility and safety for bus passengers and NMT users, greatly reduced congestion along the main urban artery of Yichang, and contributed to reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and traffic accidents. An existing road, the Dongshan 4th Road, was improved and extended to accommodate through-traffic and freight traffic, including pass-dam transshipment.
Innovative technologies additionally incorporated into the project design, including (i) the use of recycled concrete in the construction of the Dongshan 4th Road extension; (ii) a new pavement technology that uses black steel reinforcement at start/stop point for buses at stations and traffic lights; (iii) intelligent information systems for boarding and alighting at BRT buses at the Pingu Square station, the first station of its kind; (iv) plants and artificial soil for slope protection; and (v) split BRT station design that allows the buses to stop simultaneously from both directions while still maintaining a through bus lane have enhanced traffic efficiency and infrastructure durability and promoted green construction practices. Emergency response times also improved because ambulances and firefighters can use the BRT lane.
The great travel convenience brought about by the project design features have changed the travel behavior and patterns of the residents. A substantial portion of BRT riders, comprising 38% at the latest count, consisted of private car owners and taxi riders who had shifted to the BRT system. Improvements in the pass-dam transshipment capacity reinforced Yichang’s logistics hub function and contributed to ADB’s support of more environment-friendly modes. Trainings on traffic management, road safety, and BRT operation and maintenance (O&M) built the capacity of all stakeholders involved in the construction and O&M of the BRT system and road network thereby improving implementation efficiency and project sustainability.
The project was successfully completed through the joint efforts of all stakeholders. It can be considered a successful example of BRT and urban infrastructure construction. Yichang City’s outstanding achievements in sustainable transportation reform through this project contributed to its winning the “World Sustainable Transport Award” in January 2016. The project was also recognized with the “Best Urban Transport Innovation” award in 2019 from the Ministry of Transport and the “Advanced Demonstration City for Promoting China BRT” in 2018 by the Ministry of Housing and Construction.
In addition, the project have had substantial demonstration value for other ADB-funded and non-ADB-funded BRT projects in the PRC and elsewhere. Besides winning international and national awards, between 2014 and 2019, the city also hosted 268 delegations from 91 countries wanting to learn more about this model BRT project. The project had the Yichang municipal government as executing agency and the Yichang Municipal Urban Construction Investment and Development as implementing agency.