The city of Shanghai spent over $45 billion in beautification, construction, and city enhancement projects in the build up to the 2010 World Expo. One of the largest civic projects of all time took place in China’s most populous city over the course of over a year of intense labor and concentration. For locals, this time was marked by loud drilling noises, constant work trucks blocking roads and the never ending campaign explaining that it was all for the betterment of the city and the city’s residents. The slogan, “Better City, Better Life!” was wrapped around the city like wrapping paper on a present, and the expo was the present that made the signs come down and the new city was revealed.
The expo has been over for several months, and the city has finally been allowed to wallow in relative silence– well, as much silence as can be expected in a populated Chinese city full of hustle, bustle and millions of fellow workers. Now that things have died down, how has the city benefited in the long run from the massive civic projects that made Shanghai beautiful and ready for the millions of guests for the expo.
Metro. There are more lines, they are cleaner, more organized and the signage has improved. Transportation in Shanghai has increased in efficiency and in the wealth of available options. The metro may still be confusing for those from out of town, but with everything in English and Chinese, its one of the more navigable networks in Asia.
Roads. Most notably, the roads around the Bund, which have been under construction for several years, have been revealed for the expo and, without the massive high roads that once blocked the view of the river, the traffic flow has increased and the larger, wider boulevards have paved the way for more cars, buses and others to pass around the city.
Trees. The city has been given a green face lift. Everywhere you’ll find small parks and planters full of greenery. Outside the new Yu Gardens subway stop you’ll find a row of greenery with a path in the middle. This kind of beautification project was much needed in Shanghai, and offers slightly cleaner air as well as a great place for an afternoon stroll. I recently saw several women dancing in one new, small park, which wouldn’t have been possible a year ago.