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July 30, 2010

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Bund's problems are on the surface

THE distance between chaos and order? Just one level.

That's the situation at the renovated Bund area, one of the city's most popular tourist attractions after it reopened in March.

Three months after the Bund's reopening, the ground-level roads in the area are suffering serious congestion with an increasing number of tour buses and a huge influx of visitors because of the Expo.

However, the total vehicle volume is less than before the renovation and a newly built underground tunnel sees a much smoother traffic flow, authorities said.

"That's really a dilemma and quite confusing," said Zhang Yong'gan, an engineer with city engineering administration.

Zhang said the number of vehicles passing the area was increasing by 5 percent every month.

Vehicles would be stuck for more than half an hour or even an hour on the 3 kilometers of road during peak periods. The most severe congestion would be seen around 8pm when crowds came to watch the night scene along the riverside, he said.

The most congested roads are Nanjing Road E. and Yan'an Road.

The city government began the renovation project in 2008, aiming to divert traffic to the new underground tunnel while leaving the ground area mainly to tour or city buses as well as pedestrians.

At present more than 82,000 cars pass through the Bund, including the tunnel, in a 12-hours period, Zhang's said. Half of the vehicles choose to go on the ground roads while the rest used the tunnel. The underground tunnel system still had the potential to cater for a major increase in traffic flow.

Before the renovation which began in 2008, the volume was about 110,000 cars in 12 hours, said Zhang.

But with only three-quarters of the original turnout, why is the Bund more congested?

City traffic police say that many tour buses are breaking the parking rules, loading or unloading tourists along the road and taking up space for too long a time.

"We issued 200 traffic tickets in just one day there," said Hua Dong, a traffic police squad captain in Huangpu District.

The area has reserved lanes for temporary parking. However, the tour buses were using them as parking lots, police said.

It's thought that bus drivers are trying to save on the fees for parking lots which are a 10-minute walk away.

And despite police advice to use the tunnel, many drivers still prefer the ground roads.

The problem is made worse because there are now only four lanes for traffic, compared with 11 before renovation.


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