Minibus transport in Far Eastern cities, with special reference to Beijing
Transport systems employing small sized vehicles and operated under an informal institutional structure are the essence of unconventional wisdom of urban transport planning in the Third World. The minibus is one of the many types of unconventional passenger carriers which primarily originate from indigenous technology. In the Far East, minibuses play a crucial role in moving commuters in large urban areas. Using minibuses in urban passenger transport services is interesting phenomena in urban transport planning in both developed and developing countries. Being small the minibus can ply along narrow streets often seen in crowded residential quarters and thus provide users with a high level of accessibility to trip ends. Furthermore, providers of minibus transport services are profitable, associated with small scale business and informal organizational structure and, more interestingly, often under private ownership. The minibus system in Beijing is one of the most recent public transport systems established in the Far East. It is distinctive in that the providers can be financially viable under state ownership and in large fleets. This study examines the system's service style, ownership pattern and organizational structure which are thought to have influenced the undertakings' financial performance. The findings suggest that neither ownership nor institutional structure contributes directly to profitability. The main factors for financial viability rest upon the self-reliance and entrepreneurship within the industry, which stimulates labour efficiency of the crews. Besides, the 'near-monopolistic' market and the limited total supply serving a huge population, also create opportunities for providers to charge high fares. On the basis of the findings, the study recommends that, in order to encourage the passenger transport business, a competitive market mechanism should be developed within the industry, with the participation of all sectors. The major outcome of this study is the building of a model of transport planning for developing cities. The essence of the model is that in low-income countries, cheap labour is an important resource which should be utilized fully in substitution for expensive imported technology, and that the use of modern technology should follow the affordability of the citizens and the condition of economic development. In conclusion, the study confirms that the unconventional transport wisdom is an appropriate approach that should be given proper weight, especially in the developing world.