1 Hong Kong Hong Kong is located in Southeast China on the Pearl River Delta. It has four general areas, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Lantau Island and the New Territories. It is approximately 429 square miles, around the size of Los Angeles. It has a population of 7 million, of whom 93% of people are of Chinese descent. Its terrain is very mountainous with many steep slopes which prevent building in many areas of the country, so the population is generally confined to areas around the Pearl River Delta and Victoria’s Harbor, named after Queen Victoria of England. Until 1851, Hong Kong was controlled by the imperial Chinese dynasty, of which the Qing was the last in control. In 1841, the First Opium War occurred and Hong Kong became controlled by England. Under English control it experienced tremendous growth. In 100 years the population increased from 8000 to 1.6 million. England retained control until 1997 when China regained sovereignty. However, Hong Kong remained its own government and became a special administrative region, or SAR. The national government of China handles the foreign affairs and national defense of Hong Kong, but the rest is handled by Hong Kong’s own government. Hong Kong is located on the outskirts of mainland China. The surrounding sea has been the foundation of Hong Kong’s development as an international sea market. The geographical layout is extensively mountainous regions. Less than 25% of the land is developed. Country parks and nature reserves make up about 40% of the land. The combination of shortage of land and increasing population is an ongoing conflict in the city. Land reclamation, the process of creating new land from ocean or lakes, has been and is becoming more widely used to accommodate the rapidly increasing population. Most urban
2 Hong Kong areas in the more dense parts of the city, typically closer to the ocean in Kowloon and New Territories connected to the mainland. Interestingly, Hong Kong Disneyland and Hong Kong international airport were built on reclaimed land. Due to the geography of this city, land use policies can be very extensive. Hong Kong encourages the development and use of railways especially in the metropolitan and topographically-confined areas. They aim to avoid routing major roads through existing air pollution “black spots” as well as the promotion of balanced land use to minimize the need to travel. Noise levels from surrounding infrastructure cannot exceed acceptable limits. Natural resources are regulated, protected and managed. Building heights are controlled to avoid the congestion of tall buildings and to protect the views of natural landmarks. Monotonous development is highly discouraged, however, Hong Kong aims to avoid any out-of-context “sore thumb” development. The amount of land use policies is overwhelming at first. Most of the policies are developed around the pedestrians and how they view the city both physically and mentally. A high quality of life and living is Hong Kong’s main goal. The vision of the Transportation Department of HK is to “provide the worlds best transport system which is safe, reliable, efficient, environmentally friendly and satisfying to both users and operators.” Hong Kong’s topography consists of steep and hilly terrains, which proposed many challenges to city planners. Other factors such as small developed land and high density further minimized open spaces dedicated to roads and parking areas. Thus, the transportation department of Hong Kong set goals and objectives in order to cope with these challenges, through planning strategies that encourage walking and the use of
3 Hong Kong public transit system. The main goal is to reduce private vehicle use and encourage the use of other modes of transportation, thus, reducing traffic congestion and minimize emission from vehicles. This results in providing a healthier environment and improving local air quality, which are also concerns of HK Transportation Department. HK Transportation department set objectives in order to approach its goals; such as improving the transport infrastructure, promoting the use of public transit through improving their quality, managing land and road use, reduce traffic congestion, promote safety, and achieve for efficiency. One of Hong Kong’s remarkable achievements in the transportation system is the MTR; it is design to accomplish passengers’ safety, efficiency and reliability. The MTR Corporation which carries an average of 4.9 million passengers every weekday was established in 1975 as the Mass Transit Railway Corporation. Its mission is to construct and operate an urban rail system to help meet Hong Kongs public transport requirements. The Company was re-established as the MTR Corporation Limited in June 2000 after the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government sold 23% of its issued share capital to private investors in an Initial Public Offering. MTR Corporation shares were listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong on 5 October 2000. MTR is one of the best railway system all over the world for its safety, reliability, customer service and cost efficiency. It comprises nine railway lines serving Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. In addition, a Light Rail network serves the local communities of TuenMun and Yuen Long in the New Territories while a fleet of buses provide convenient feeder services. MTR also has an Airport Express, a fastest connection
4 Hong Kong to Hong Kong International Airport and the citys newest exhibition. From Hong Kong, passengers can travel easily to major cities in Guangdong province China mainland of China by MTR. Perhaps the most important advantage of MTR is its reliability. Its operation is unaffected by traffic conditions, so passengers could always get to their destinations on time, avoid the influence of severe weather conditions to some extent. Also its accessibility is also outstanding. It can almost arrive at every place in Hong Kong. Its operation period is very long; MTR trains run about 19 hours a day, 7 days a week, from early morning (5:30 am - 6:00 am) to 1:00 am the next morning. To guarantee its safety, MTR has automatic signal control and protection systems. This system can regulate the distance between trains, determine the optimal rates of acceleration and braking, and the coasting speeds on different sections of a line. In addition, to ensure the performance of a smooth, uninterrupted service, the MTR maintains a close contact with both the Government and the emergency services in all operational aspects of the Railway. Also regular exercises are conducted in simulated emergency situations to ensure a close coordination between the staff members of the Corporations emergency services for efficient recovery of regular passenger service in the event of accidents. MTR is proud of its high quality in service. The planning of the service timetable is based on passenger demand, taking into account the morning and evening peak hours on normal working days. In 2011, in order to improve travel environment and service efficiency as well as facilitate passenger flow, MTR has implemented various plans to improve its existing facilities. To maximize the commercial value of space within station,
5 Hong Kong the MTR builds kiosks and banks at the concourse levels. That not only increases the income of MTR but also facilitate passengers. Control and maintenance of the Railway is carried out 24 hours a day by 3 major departments. The job of Operations Department is to provide service for passengers within train and station. The Rolling Stock Maintenance Department is to maintain trains. The work of Infrastructure Maintenance Department is the maintenance of structure, tracks, and other fixed installations along the railway lines. The bus system has a large accessibility in developed area and this has increased the demand for buses in Hong Kong. In the 2000s the city started to replace the current buses with a new design to increase the capacity. This design featured lower buses with a double deck and a new capacity of 115 passengers. There are three types of bus systems in Hong Kong; franchised, non-franchised and public light buses or minibuses. The franchised buses include 5 different bus companies with over 700 routes. The non-franchised buses had 7206 registered vehicles as of 2003. Furthermore, the minibuses have a capacity of only 16 passengers and a law was passed that limited the amount of them to be in service at a time to 4350. All of the bus companies have very useful information technologies. Each service has a website and mobile application on which riders can plan out their traveling and can locate bus stops and routes with ease. Hong Kong has a high density of people. The best way for these people to maneuver around is by public transportation and also by foot. The city is comprised of mountains
6 Hong Kong with high concentrations of interests around the mountains and along the water. This allows many people to reach their destination by foot because it can be located so close. Hong Kong keeps their pedestrians protected by creating pedestrian friendly streets, which is a unique system compared to other countries. Since 2000, the city has been encouraging people to walk and today it is one of the most pedestrian oriented cities in the world. Streets were designed based on a problem the city had with the sidewalks being overcrowded in concentrated areas and people would pour onto the street, making it dangerous for walkers, bicyclists and drivers. There are three different types of pedestrian streets in Hong Kong: full time, part time and traffic calming. Maps are available online for unfamiliar people to distinguish them. The full time pedestrian streets are used by pedestrians only. There is no access for vehicles at any time of the day or week, except emergency vehicles. The part time pedestrian streets are available to vehicles during specified periods. These periods are usually during off-peak hours and are available for delivery trucks that need to gain access to businesses. There is also no on street parking allowed in these areas. Traffic-calming streets are streets used to reduce vehicle traffic. They have wide footpaths, narrow roads, limited on street parking and curbs. They also have sharp turns in the roads to reduce the speeds of the cars. Another way Hong Kong used to manage traffic and to promote walking by constructing the first and longest escalator and walkway system. The escalator and walkway system was opened in October 1994 in order to cut down excessive traffic that
7 Hong Kong was increasing due to the steep and narrow streets. The escalator system is 800 meters long; it connects the Mid-Levels, which is a residential area, to the business district in Central. The main purpose is to provide a reliable, efficient and safe mode of transportation to workers; thus, for convenience, the escalator travels in the downhill direction from 6:00am to 10:00am to bring people to their workplaces, and goes in the uphill direction from 10:00am until midnight. There are stairs adjacent to the escalators to be used if someone is going in the opposite direction of the escalators. The escalator is heated during the winter, cooled during the summer, and lit during service hours; this ensures comfort to the user. In Hong Kong government, the leader is an elected official called the Chief Executive, who acts as a mayor to the entire city. Underneath him are many bureaus and departments that work with each other in order to make the city function. The Transportation and Housing Bureau, which until 1978 were two separate bureaus, encompasses organization of transportation modes and land use within the city. Underneath the Bureau, comes the Transportation Department. The Transportation Department covers four main areas; administration, planning, traffic management, and management of the public transportation modes. The Octopus card is used to pay for public transportation fares in Hong Kong city. It is also accepted at retail stores, supermarkets, fast food outlets, and 7-11s, which Hong Kong has the highest density of them in the world. It may not be available for some taxi and public minibus services. Similar to the Oyster Card in London, or the Metro Card in New York, it is designed like a credit card where you just swipe the card over the scanner
8 Hong Kong and once the transaction is approved, it will display the remaining balance on the screen, keeping you informed of when you should refill it. Money can be added to the card at any transportation service center, MTR Station, and some convenience stores. There are different versions of the cards; some for seniors, students, etc. all with different colors. However, all the cards have an eight or infinity symbol displayed in it. The number eight is considered a lucky number in the Chinese culture and the infinite symbol resembles that the card has infinite possibilities for traveling. This card first debuted in September 1997 and today the company has issued over 20 million cards, which is almost triple the population of people who live in Hong Kong. There are also about 11 million transactions per day. These large numbers can show how successful and user friendly the card is. It also has multiple purposes. Many schools will use the card to keep track of attendance. There are many advantages to this card. It is quick, lightweight and easy to use. It only takes a couple of seconds to swipe and read your balance. This allows many people to board in a short amount of time. By using the card, it eliminates the need to lug coins around and therefore a passenger has less weight to carry on them. Since the Octopus card is used similarly to a credit card, something everyone is familiar with, it is easy to adapt to. This is important for tourists or people who are unfamiliar to traveling around Hong Kong. A system that is easy to figure out how to use will create an easy flow of traffic, which can be beneficial to the travelers and all the businesses involved.
9 Hong Kong Despite the connectivity provided by Hong Kong’s transportation system, low- income groups can become isolated due to greater travel costs and distances. For the elderly, the high cost of public transport can create a lack of mobility. This lack of mobility weakens their social and family support networks, therefore isolating them from the wider community. As mentioned earlier, the bus routes and subways are well connected; however, this can cause a lot of confusion when choosing a route of choice. Finding an interactive map with all possible route choices can be difficult. Instead, there is a website that will give you all possible bus routes within a 400 meter radius. This will provide the pedestrian with nearby bus routes, times of operation, and fees associated with each route. At first glance, this can be overwhelming to new comers, which is a drawback considering the fact that Hong Kong operates as an international city. Another problem is sign pollution and congestion. Business owners are often trying to out-do one another with bigger and flashier signs, which can cause confusion for travelers who are attempting to locate road signs. According to the South China Morning Post, there is frustration encountered when trying to read the street signs. “Motorists are fed up with not being able to read road signs easily because there are too many in one spot or the signs are parallel to the road.” (Hongkie Town) Most of the street name signs are not visible until after they have been passed. The future of Hong Kong transport is based on its version of future planning. Hong Kong’s version for future is the quality of life of citizens. Thus they want to build a safe and
10 Hong Kong efficient living environment. From the perspective of transportation, they need to further improve the efficiency of movement including four aspects. The first aspect is integrated approach between land use and transport planning. The development in the vicinity of transport nodes can optimize the capacity of public transport, ensure efficient use of land and facilitate mobility. But the space is limited; they need to provide creative ideas to solve it. The second is to plan for more jobs closer to where people live. According to the consultation with the public, this proposition is welcomed, but its feasibility is being talked about. Moreover, even if a job is provided at one’s doorstep, it does not imply that he has the capacity to take up the position. The fact that people might change jobs over time and that there are many families with dual breadwinners would also make it difficult to guarantee success of implementing such a concept. The third is continuous adoption of public transport. Currently about 90% of daily trips in are taken by public transport, with about 36% of passengers handled by rail. Hong Kong will continue to adopt this mode as the backbone of passenger transport system. This would cut down the amount of emissions by motor vehicles and be beneficial to sustainable development. Finally, the pedestrian environments will continue to be improved. Walking, as a healthy and environmentally friendly mode, will be further promoted. Good pedestrian environments could enlarge the use of MTR and thus reduce the need for road-based transfer.The compactness of Hong Kong’s development pattern is already conducive to the
11 Hong Kong promotion of walking, but it is through the provision of comfortable, safe and interesting pedestrian environments that Hong Kong can become a truly walkable city. As discussed here, Hong Kong has become an incredibly connected city with large usage of its public transportation systems. The light rail system and bus system integrate very well with each other in order to allow users to get from one end of the city to the other with relative ease. However, no city is perfect and Hong Kong is just the same. There is still much work to do to continue to improve the transportation network within the city. Still, in this day and age, Hong Kong has a incredibly advanced transportation system.
12 Hong Kong References “Benefits for your Business.”Octopus. Octopus Card Limited, October 2012. <http://www.octopus.com.hk/octopus-for-businesses/benefits-for-your-business/en/index. html> “Hong Kong: Octopus Card.” Trip Advisor.TripAdvisor. October 2012. <http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g294217-c50890/Hong-Kong:China:Octopus.Card.h tml> “Octopus Card.” Hong-Kong Travel. Hong-Kong Travel. October 2012. <http://www.hong-kong-travel.org/Octopus/> “Bus services in Hong Kong.” Wikipedia.Wikipedia. December 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_services_in_Hong_Kong> Transport Department.Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.Web. October 2012. <http://www.td.gov.hk/en/home/index.html> Transport and Housing Bureau.Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Web. October 2012. http://www.thb.gov.hk/eng/index.htm Hongkie Town.Road Signs in Hong Kong Suck, February 2011. <http://hongkietown.com/2011/02/road-signs-in-hong-kong-suck.html>