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Animation: China’s Rapid Transit Boom (1990 – 2020)

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After decades of hyper-growth and worsening pollution, China has fully embraced rapid transit as a way to keep cities moving. By 2020, China aims to have 7,000 km (4,300 mi.) of rapid transit lines, more than five times what exists in the U.S. today.

The following animation from Peter Dovak shows this rapid transit revolution playing out by year:

China's Rapid Transit Boom

MIND THE GAP

In the above animation, there’s a distinct uptick in the number of projects started after 2004. It was in this year that the government lifted a ban on new metro construction, after worsening congestion and pollution caused the government to rethink their stance. There has been a rapid transit boom in the country ever since.

Soon, minimum population requirements for cities looking to build subway systems will be halved from 3 million to 1.5 million, and this move is expected to set off an even bigger wave of infrastructure investment in cities throughout the country.

RISING RATIOS

Hundreds of kilometers of track are being added each year. As a result of this unparalleled pace of metro construction, China’s ratio of Rapid Transit to Residents (RTR) has risen steeply over the last 15 years.

Transit to Resident Ratio in China

RTR is a ratio that compares the length of rapid transit lines (measured in kilometers) with the country’s urban population (measured in millions of people). As you can see, China is making great strides in building urban transit networks, though it is still catching up to countries like Germany, which has a RTR of 81.

Chinese cities have a blend of attributes that make constructing metro lines an appealing option: fewer regulatory hurdles, a low cost of labor, and a high-density urban fabric. Also, because transit is treated as an essential public service (i.e. not expected to be profitable), China’s metros provide affordable mobility to its citizens. Even with Beijing’s recent metro fare increase, most rides only cost about ¥3 to ¥8, or $0.45 to $1.45.

Shanghai is now home to the longest metro system by route length, and the Beijing Subway has the highest ridership in the world. Not bad for cities that lacked any substantive transit system until the 1990s.

beijing shanghai metro construction

By 2020, China is expected to have 220+ cities with over a million inhabitants, so as long as the government can continue to provide the resources and funding to expanding transit networks, the building boom will likely continue unabated.

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Maps

Mapped: Chinese Provinces With Cities Over 1 Million People

Some Chinese provinces are so populous they rival entire countries. But how many of them have cities over a million people?

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A cropped map of all the Chinese provinces with cities over 1 million people.

Mapped: Chinese Provinces With Cities Over 1 Million People

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Almost two-thirds of the 1.4 billion Chinese population lives in an urban area. But how does this play out across the country’s geography?

This map shows the Chinese provinces with cities over a million residents. Data for this graphic is sourced from citypopulation.de.

Ranked: Chinese Provinces With Cities Over 1 Million People

China’s Guangdong province has 17 cities with a population size of 1 million or more. It is also China’s most populous province, home to 127 million people. This makes it comparable to the size of Japan, the 12th most populous country in the world.

RankProvinceCities With 1 Million People
1Guangdong17
2Jiangsu12
3Shandong9
4Hebei6
5Zhejiang6
6Liaoning5
7Guangxi*4
8Henan4
9Anhui3
10Fujian3
11Heilongjiang3
12Hubei3
13Hunan3
14Inner Mongolia*3
15Jiangxi3
16Jilin2
17Gansu2
18Shaanxi2
19Shanxi2
20Sichuan2
21Xinjiang*2
22Beijing**1
23Chongqing**1
24Guizhou1
25Hainan1
26Ningxia*1
27Qinghai1
28Shanghai**1
29Tianjin**1
30Yunnan1
31Hong Kong***1
32Macao***1

*Autonomous Region. **Direct-Administered Municipality. ***Special Administrative Region.

Jiangsu, ranked fourth in population overall, is the only other province which has 10+ cities with a million or more inhabitants.

Meanwhile, some of China’s most populous cities—Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and Chongqing—are administered directly by the central government, and do not fall under provincial control.

In fact, Shanghai and Beijing have informal “population caps” to prevent them from growing larger, in a bid to reduce pollution, overcrowding, and pressure on public services.

On the other hand, Tibet’s cold climes and rugged terrain make for a sparsely-populated area, totalling 3 million people across 1.2 million km². Tibet is the only province-level division in China without a single city over a million residents.

All together, China has 105 cities with more than one million inhabitants. For comparison, India has 65, and the U.S. has nine.

Learn More About Population Metrics from Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, check out Interactive Map: The World as 1,000 People. This visualization shows how unevenly people are distributed across the globe, re-imagining the entire 8 billion human population as only 1,000 people.

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