Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province, is located in the central region of China (geographical coordinates: 31°52’N and 117°17’E) between the Yangtze and Huai Rivers. It possesses a strategically important location easily accessible from all directions of the country, and it connects the vast area of central China. The total city area is 7,047 square kilometers, of which 640 are urbanized. The total population is 5.01 million inhabitants, with 2.7 million (2008) living in the urban area. Hefei is an important science and education center in China with more than 30 colleges, such as the University of Science and Technology of China, the Hefei University of Technology, and Anhui University, as well as various research institutes. Hefei was also named a “National Garden City” in 1992 due to its high green coverage in the urban area, which is 37% above the national average.
City Center Hefei, June 2009 ©S.Bayer
History and Development
Though settlements at the site date back much further, the name Hefei was first given to the city in the 2nd century BCE during the Han dynasty, and the city was the site of a famous battle during the Three Kingdoms period at the end of the Han. Known as Luzhou during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912), Hefei reverted to its traditional name in the twentieth century and was made the capital of Anhui province following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, cementing the city’s role as an important regional hub in modern China.
Since the opening-up and reform, Hefei has entered a fast track for its economic and social development, with GDP growth at a two-digit rate for more than 20 years. At the beginning of 1995, the Anhui Provincial Party Committee and Anhui provincial government jointly made a strategic decision to build up Hefei into a large modern city in the near future. Accordingly, a series of policies and measures were worked out and both construction and development accelerated constantly. The city of Hefei today is on the verge of becoming a mega city, probably within the next decade.
It is predicted that in 2020 the industrial production value of Hefei will be 600-800 billion RMB and the total population will be 8 million inhabitants, of which 3.6 million will live in the urban area. According to the newest planning strategy, the urban area will be expanding from 640 square kilometers to 1,672 square kilometers, and Hefei will become a central regional city alongside Nanjing, Zhengzhou, and Wuhan in the middle of China.
Hefei is a regional hub of road, railway, aviation, and water transportation. There are nine freeways and various railway lines serving the region. The waterways are continually improved to increase efficiency, and the airport of Hefei is also the most important airport in Anhui province. According to the new rail network plan for the city of Hefei, there will be three light rail lines constructed in near future with a total length of 103 kilometers.
Hefei's urban traffic has been patterned as a chessboard network with two ring roads around the city and major roads leading in seven different directions. Although the length of the road network increased from 1,091 kilometers in 2000 to 1,383 kilometers in 2005, the number of vehicles has grown much faster. The rising deficiency between road network demand and supply is a serious issue for Hefei, especially taking into account the great number of bicycles, motorized scooters, and pedestrians in the city. The concentration of most city functions within the downtown area is a major reason for transportation difficulties. Other reasons include low utilization of branched roads, a high number of accesses on main roads, insufficient parking spaces, and poorly designed bus stops. The complex issues raised are traffic jams, accidents, low efficiency of public transport, and difficulties for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
City Center of Hefei, September 2009 ©M.Ruiz Lorbacher
Recently, the Department of Hefei Traffic Police has begun to use technology developed by different Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) projects. A new Traffic Control Center is under construction, with the first system completed in October 2006. Already, Hefei has been ranked at the second level of national “Traffic Smoothing” engineering in 2004. City officials expect to benefit from the technical cooperation of the METRASYS project for the development of sustainable transport that can support the ambitious plans for the future of the city.