International Transport Forum Discussion Paper 2017-21
This paper explores the role of modern trams in Chinese cities and identifies issues and challenges of integrating modern trams with other public transport modes. The Suzhou National High-tech District (SND) Tram is chosen as a representative case for study. The findings show that, due to the strict national policy and approval procedures, trams are often planned and constructed as a good alternative to metro systems. Instead of practically addressing transport congestion, with a "development-driven" and "control and management" ideology, the current approach emphasises new development and avoids potential confrontation and social unrest in dense urban areas. As a result, despite massive investment in tram and other public transport modes, public transport mobility is not competititve against car mobility. Lessons learnt from the Suzhou tram case include prioritising public transport, well articulating public transport systems at multiple levels, combining strategic planning and supportive policies, enabling open competition for tram operation, and exercising leadership for collective goverance.