New Patterns of Urban Mobility


Title: New Patterns of Urban Mobility
Directors: Yves Winkin, Michel Lussault and Ding Jinghong
Discipline: Sociology
Status: Completed Project
Starting date: 2010




Using the subway

It is increasingly observed in Europe that urbanites have been rapidly acquiring in recent years the physical and cognitive capacities to combine several modes of transportation ; so long as their efforts are encouraged by mass transportations authorities (better security, more comfort, clearer maps, etc), urbanites are willing to abandon their cars and borrow mass transportation for brief daily routines (Amar, 2010 ; Kaufmann, 2005) . In the framework of urban sustainability, this is an important pattern. While several European cities like London or Paris demonstrate a definite shift in that direction, the trend in Shanghai is still uncertain, most probably because the city is still in a state of rapid evolution (Liu 2010 ; Pan, 2009 ; Zhang, 2009).  But it is quite an appropriate time to conduct an investigation about the ways people use the Shanghai subway : how do they « appropriate » the system ? what are the activities they conduct in the many stations ? They take the subway, sure, but do they eat, go shopping, meet friends underground ? Can the stations be considered as « sociability hubs »  ? The same questions may be explored in France, in Lyon as well as in Paris ; subway users may have more experience in some respects, but not all, for example in terms of  making use of the multifunctionality of new subway stations. Shanghai subway users may actually be more versatile since they were offered such stations from the start. For example, the Ji Feng Shu Dian subway bookshops are popular  get-together places for the « intellectual crowds » (Creative Life in Subway Writing Group, 2009 : 32-33). It could well be that a few Shanghai subway stations can be considered as « trendy », especially when they are well connected to  popular commercial centers (eg Zhongshan Park, on Line 2). Mobility patterns could thus be related to urbanities, old and new (Mozère, 2010 ; Rocca, 2010 ; Winkin, 2010). 


Connecting walking with the subway

Whenever urbanites take the subway, they need to walk : in order to get into the station, through the station and on their way to their final destination. Walking is thus a mode of transportation in its own right, that need be considered as an important element in the « intermodality » nexus that each subway station  ought to become sooner or later. Most stations of the Lyon and Paris subways are nowadays connected to buses, trams and trolleys.  It is known that most pedestrians in Europe (not to speak of the US) will not walk more than 1,8 km or 20-25 minutes (Lévy, 2008).  What are the implicit norms in Shanghai ? Given the size of the city, do people accept to walk for longer periods and distances ? In other words, what is the « walkability » of Shanghai in relationship with the subway grid ? Since the number of subway stations recently increased in  spectacular ways, do we observe a transformation of walking habits ? Once again, this is an important question in terms of urban sustainability, but also in terms in terms of public health, in a society now caught by childhood obesity .