Chinese cities pilot the EcoMobility SHIFT+ methodology to tackle traffic gridlock and air pollution

With unprecedented economic development and urban expansion in China, private car ownership is on the rise, along with severe traffic congestion and air pollution. This is especially true in larger, wealthier cities but is a looming issue for smaller Chinese cities as well.

Smaller cities and rural communities also are seeing increasing car ownership and are facing mounting pressure to plan and implement sustainable, ecomobile and people-oriented mobility systems to alleviate or prevent crippling gridlock and air pollution.

Kaili is an ethnically-diverse city located in the hills of Guizhou Province with just over five hundred thousand residents, and Foshan New City is home to a population of over 7.6 million in Guangdong Province. Despite the two cities differences, both cities are prioritizing sustainable transport and both have been selected to participate in the Cities SHIFT project.  

The Cities SHIFT project supports cities to identify challenges and opportunities within their mobility systems and shift towards more sustainable modes of travel, such as walking, cycling and shared and public transport.

“One of our main motivations to undertake the assessment is to enhance our mobility system more strategically before traffic gridlock looms,” said Wu Guisheng, Chairman of the Kaili People’s Government.

In order to plan for an integrated transport system that can deliver many different modes of transport to its residents, policymakers, urban planners and transport operators should understand the evolving needs of their stakeholders and balance competition from different city departments. ICLEI recently launched the EcoMobility SHIFT+ methodology, which is designed to assist cities like Kaili and Foshan New City to measure their performance in urban mobility and make informed decisions with key stakeholders.  

Foshan New City is already facing severe congestion while Kaili sees the issue as an impending threat. Both cities aim to diversify their approaches to sustainable mobility to become more efficient and effective at assessing risks and challenges, and then identifying key working areas and solutions.

Both cities are already investing in improving their urban mobility systems, particularly by leveraging smart solutions and clean technology to electrify public bus systems.

Public buses form the backbone of the public transportation system in Kaili. It integrates smart solutions into the public bus system to streamline fares, timetables, stops, and passenger information, and to improve operational efficiency, revenue and commuters’ convenience. Foshan has also invested in a similar transport app that integrates the popular social messaging app – WeChat – into the payment options for the city’s bus network.

With the aim of curbing air pollution, Kaili and Foshan have also invested significantly in electric buses. All public buses in Kaili run on either a hybrid system or are fully electric. In 2019, 151 electric buses started operations in Kaili and are expected to transport 22.7 million passengers per year. Whereas in Foshan, out of the 6790 buses, about 1714 units are electric and 583 are hybrid buses, serving 1.90 million passengers on a daily base.

Foshan has introduced hydrogen buses the end of 2018 with 70 hydrogen buses in operation now and plans to replace more fossil-fuel powered buses with electric or hydrogen buses

The Cities SHIFT project is funded by the Hewlett Foundation and the EcoMobility Alliance. To learn more about Cities SHIFT: Capacity building and networking for climate- and people-friendly mobility and the project cities, please visit:

The project overall focuses on three areas of work (1) performance measurement of the mobility system through EcoMobility SHIFT+ methodology; (2) training city staff on key transport issues and on the assessment process; and (3) sharing cities challenges and successes with peers around the world.

Photo credit: Kaili Municipal People’s Government

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