Coordinated optimization of multi-level rail transit network and Regional spatial: International contextual differences and the case of Shanghai


  • Yuxiao Ma College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Shanghai, China
  • Jianzhong Huang College of Architecture and Urban Planning of Tongji University, Zhejiang Urban Governance Study Center
  • Qiao Zhang Shanghai Tongji Urban Planning and Design Institute Co., Ltd.
  • Jing Deng Shanghai Tongji Urban Planning and Design Institute Co., Ltd.


Regional integration, Rail transit network, Metropolitan areas, Cross-cultural comparison, Shanghai




At present, China's urbanization rate has exceeded 60%. With the spillover of the functions of megacities, administrative boundaries tend to be blurred, and cross-domain governance faces challenges. In this context, the Chinese government regards coordinated regional development as an important national strategy. China's major cities, including Shanghai, view metropolitan areas as essential in planning urban development strategies. As a critical network supporting the development of megacities and regions, the goal of rail transit has shifted from supporting urban development to advancing the integration of regional development.

By learning the experience of other megacities worldwide, such as Tokyo, London and Paris, China's megacities, including Shanghai, have been building multi-level rail transit network systems that serve different travel needs. The different spatial scope of rail system services can be divided into four levels: national high-speed railway, intercity railway, urban railway and metro. However, due to differences in city scale, metropolitan area scale and administrative management scope, there are differences in the concept and service scope of rail transit between Shanghai and foreign cities. In other words, China and foreign countries have different understandings of the four types of rail transit mentioned above. For example, in terms of population and spatial scale, the administrative area of Shanghai is close to that of the Tokyo metropolitan area. In contrast, the Shanghai metropolitan area is larger than the Tokyo metropolitan area. Relevant studies have proven that the functional structure of the Shanghai metropolitan area is not a "center-periphery" commuter circle structure, which is different from other metropolitan areas with concentrated and significant centripetal commuting flows. Therefore, the scale and structure of China's metropolitan areas differ from those abroad. Correspondingly, the construction and operation entities of the rail transit system and the existing problems are also different. Understanding this difference is an essential prerequisite for sharing Chinese solutions.

This study aims to discuss the differences and correspondences between China and other countries in concepts related to rail transit from the aspects of spatial scale, spatial structure, and management entities. Based on conceptual analysis, multi-source data analysis is used to put forward the shortcomings and optimization suggestions of the rail transit system in the Shanghai metropolitan area.

After more than 20 years of construction, Shanghai's rail transit operating mileage and passenger volume have continued to increase, and rail transit has become the public transportation mode chosen by most people. The analysis shows that as available construction space decreases and the goal of rail transit planning shifts from providing services to the central city to supporting regional development, the importance of cross-administrative division cooperation increases. Within the Shanghai metropolitan area, different types of rail transit have different network integrity and operating entities, and the rail transit hub system is chaotic. Overall, multi-level rail transit cannot support the development concept of urban areas. The focus of rail transit network planning should shift from passively serving the current urban functions to considering the development goals of the metropolitan area, supporting regional development through rail transit construction and influencing the future regional spatial structure. The inadequate development of the urban railway network stands out as a prominent issue, influenced by various factors. In addition, combined with spatial objectives, optimization suggestions are put forward for intercity railway, metro and rail transit hub systems. At the same time, it is also crucial to clarify the subjects and methods of cross-administrative cooperation in rail transit networks at different levels.

Author Biography

  • Jianzhong Huang, College of Architecture and Urban Planning of Tongji University, Zhejiang Urban Governance Study Center

    ┬áProfessor,Tongji University, College of Architecture and Urban Planning´╝ŤZhejiang Urban Governance Study Center