Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, is a regional hub between the eastern and western regions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The main city is located on the banks of the Yellow River and contained within a narrow east–west valley with steep terrain at both the north and south that effectively constrains further expansion of the city. Future urban development will therefore require a second city center to be developed at Anning district. To fulfill this requirement, the Lanzhou municipal government (LMG) has adopted a strategy of "one river, two centers, seven groups" as the key concept of its urban master plan to optimize land use and the economic and social functions of the city. Under the master plan, Anning will become the new political, administrative, economic, and cultural center of the city, and this will lead to a significant increase in the demand for transport to, from, and within Anning.
To assist in the development of the new city center, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a $150 million loan for the Lanzhou Sustainable Urban Transport Project in December 2009. The project was to (i) construct/reconstruct urban roads including bus rapid transit (BRT) facilities and nonmotorized transport (NMT) lanes; (ii) install an advanced traffic control system (ATCS) ; (iii) install an advanced environmental monitoring system, including air quality sensors; and (iv) conduct capacity building for relevant stakeholders. Its design also included greenhouse gas emission reduction and an application to the clean development mechanism (CDM), which would help mitigate climate change through (i) using new and larger buses to improve fuel-use efficiency, (ii) mode switching with the availability of an efficient and attractive public transport system, (iii) an advanced bus dispatching/onboard system to increase load, and (iv) increased average speed for buses.
The project’s envisaged impact was sustainable economic growth, effective environmental improvement, and improved quality of urban life in Anning. Its expected outcome was an efficient, safe, and clean urban road transport system. It was implemented as originally designed except for the realignment of the BRT corridor for four stations because of persistent land acquisition and resettlement issues and the cancellation of the environmental monitoring system, which was already covered by the central government’s environmental monitoring initiatives. The budget for the environmental monitoring system was reallocated to the ATCS component.
The project was coordinated with critical services in the utility corridors, such as communications hardware and power distribution, to ensure adequate operational support to the intelligent transport system. A full-scale public involvement program was implemented during BRT construction and trial operation to familiarize private car drivers with the roadways with BRT buses and adjust their driving habits to fit the roadway setup and signal system designed for the BRT, attract more people to use the BRT, and enable the riding public to widely adapt to the new BRT system.
The project encountered a 4-year implementation delay but succeeded in delivering its intended outcome and impact. Its innovative features made bus and traffic operations more efficient, increased public transport ridership, and reduced the province’s transport-related fuel consumption by 27% per unit of the gross domestic product and carbon emissions per passenger kilometer reduced by 59% from 2010 to 2017. Certified CO2 emission reduction in April–October 2014 reached 9,176 tons, higher than the 5,000 tons estimated to be generated annually under the CDM after 2014. The CO2 savings are expected to increase continuously as the BRT ridership grows.
The project has also improved the average bus speed on the BRT corridor from 18 kilometers per hour (km/h) in 2010 to 25 km/h in 2015 but declined to 21 km/h by 2019, which is above the average for BRT systems in the PRC. The average travel time in the project area decreased from 50 minutes in 2010 to 24 minutes in 2019 and the share of public transport increased by 40% from 2010-2018, well above the15% target by 2019. With the increased shift to public transport, vehicle fatality rates decreased by 78% between 2010 and 2018, much higher than the 15% target increase by 2019.
Because of the project’s success, the Ministry of Transport recommended that BRT be expanded to the western part of the district and four new BRT lines be opened in the coming years in the Greater Lanzhou area, targeting a 65% BRT share in the city’s transport mode. The project had the LMG as executing agency. A project management office, within the LMG, initially acted as implementing agency (IA). In December 2014, the IA responsibility was transferred to the Anning District Government enable closer monitoring of the project whose components were mostly being implemented in Anning.