Segregated transportation system in Macau

Cotai, as a scratch of land that planned for casinos and various entertainment that serves tourist, shows segregation from the host community due to its complete tourist-favor context. Though located nearby, existing properties occupying Cotai, such as The Venetian Macao, Galaxy Macau, City of Dreams Macau and Sands Cotai Central, Broadway Macau also show isolation from their neighbor due to the lack of sidewalks that connect them to the neighbor. They derived their own zone of island casino as identified by Klebanow. Shuttle bus and private car became the major transportation to enter each resort complex while visitor seeking to enter or leave the casino by foot would be imposing and unwelcomed due to the existence of highway and rail track that act inhibit movement of pedestrian. The overall transportation system is considered visitors-based that not favor to local residents that transportation in Macau relies mainly on shuttle buses and taxies.
Fig. 1 Zoning marked by different properties in Cotai. The Wall Street Jorunal.

Aimed to alleviate traffic in Cotai, metro system was introduced to ease traffic burden created by massive numbers of visitors heading to major casinos such as Galaxy and Venetian in the Cotai area. It was first proposed first together with 2004 master plan and was proposed again by GDI of the Government in May 2007. However, the project was criticized as it only creates a fast solution for bringing gamblers to major casinos not solving the transportation problems of the inner city.

A bigger issue brought by the railway system would be its failure in integrating into existing urban fabric. The aboveground railway system would obstruct the view of several important heritage and cultural buildings like the Military Club, Government Red House and the Bela Vista and Bomparto Fort (Figs. 2 to 5). The project was considered as financial driven that social and environmental aspect are omitted without proper public consultation as well as EIA and SIA.
Fig. 2 Present situation of Military Club and view after LRT
Fig. 3 Present situation of BNU bank and view after LRT
Fig. 4 Present situation of Government Palace and view after LRT
Fig. 5 Present situation of Bela Vista and view after LRT

Owing to the negative impact of the light railway system, the Architect Association of Macau proposed an alternative in 2007 that eliminate 30% stops in stations, with higher speed circulating the city. The circuit would split into two parts which one serves the tourist while another one serves the inner city that favors local residences. It allows each stop to have a larger station accompany by side facilities like large shopping malls, parking and building complex that benefits real estate developer for a win-win situation.
Fig.5 Left presents the LRT project route and Right presents the alternative proposal of AAM, with red line represents tourist loop and blue represents local loop.

Aside from the railway project, a new transportation project launched in 2016 also marks a clear line between local and tourist. According to Business Daily, the project is in line with the recent MSAR policy that provide joint shuttle buses service circulating the around several casinos and reduce the number of gaming operator shuttle buses in Macau. The project also included the cut down of 11 bus routes between Cotai and Taipa districts. The shuttle bus link up casinos including Galaxy Macau, Broadway Macau, Studio City, City of Dreams, The Venetian Macao and Sands Cotai Central. The transportation system forms a bigger ‘island’ within the greater urban landscape as mentioned by Klebanow, which enhance the isolation of the tourist complex from its original cityscape.


1. Andrew M. Klebanow, “Casinos and the City: A White Paper on the History of Casino Development in Cities, Past and Current Trends, and Recommendations for Future Development,” Global Market Advisors (2015), 4-6
2. Francisco Vizeu Pinheiro and Penny Wan, “Urban planning practices and scenarios for Macao development.Case Studies of Macao’s Urban Sustainable Development,” 2017.
3. Muhammad Cohen , “Macau Peninsula, Cotai A Tale of Two Cities For Urban Casino Integration,” Forbes Asia, June 15, 2015.

3 Comments on “Segregated transportation system in Macau

  1. It seems that this essay holds a negative view towards the “segregated” transportation system in Macau. Having the transportation biased towards tourists, citizens of Macau seemed not to be connected with the city fully by the system. From my own experience as a tourist visiting Macau for a few times, I am actually quite supportive to this “isolation” as I could easily get to the place I wanted to visit. Therefore, I wonder if this segregated transportation a resulted from neglecting some of the factors, the community of Macau, or an intentional design decision made by the planner so as to manage tourists and citizens independently?

  2. I, however, am highly supportive of the segregated transportation system. The major issue is on the situation of congestion, which is highly inevitable with the limited capacity of public transportation network against the growing numbers of tourists and especially for the residents. It makes me wonder whether this is due to the lack of transparency, land concession and building layout in Macau’s urban planning. But after the construction of the bus and metro system, it has certainly provided much more convenience to travellers and less congestion in the city.

  3. I don’t think that the residents of Macau are concerned with the segregation of transportation system. Instead, it is beneficial to them as visitors normally would take the shuttle bus instead of the local bus. However, from my own experience as a visitor, the traffic congestion is serious within the Macau peninsula as the building density is very high. Although the LRT that circulates around the peninsula will indirectly reduce the total need for bus service, I wonder if there are any other measures in dealing with the traffic congestion in the urban area further away from the coast.

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