169 Seconds To Go

13 Mar

Honestly, it seems pretty hard for anyone to wait in their car on a five-lane road counting down from 169 seconds to zero. To get my eyes away from the “timer”, I started this conversation with a colleague-

Kam: Why there are so many big roads in Shenzhen? I thought the government would want to build a transit-oriented city here. Shouldn’t the government build smaller roads and discourage people who commute from driving?

Colleague: Well, it is cheap to own a car here and people want to drive. If the government builds small road, this would be acting against the people’s will and then the government has to deal with the compliant. Instead the government could raise parking fee etc to discourage people from driving.

Well, Kam was speechless. I realize Shenzhen and the rest of China are building cities that would allow massive volume of automobiles to go through every day. But these cities would still be equipped with extensive subway and bus lines. The closest example that runs on this hybrid system (heavy dependent on automobile and public transit) maybe New York City but you will not find many or any ten lanes road (five lanes each direction) on the island of Manhattan or Brooklyn.

These big roads with high driving speed limit cut the city into parcels that end up becoming mega-blocks. Mega-blocks are perfect for large scale real estate project because they generate enough square footage to produce profit. Recently redevelopment project is getting more costly in Shenzhen because scarcity of empty land and high cost of relocation of existing habitats. As a result, many parcels of mega-blocks are needed to be redeveloped together to generate enough revenue to cover the cost. Mega-blocks end up becoming super-block. And the higher the cost of the project, the taller the towers are on the super-block.

If they don’t stop putting more big roads, Shenzhen will be covered by high-rises and mega-blocks everywhere. Is that what they want? Maybe.

nan hai da dao (south sea big road), shenzhen – 4:31pm, mar 13, 2012

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