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Beijingers welcomed an easier and more stress-free car commute when the city government began implementing stringent traffic-reduction measures before the 2008 Summer Olympics. Post-Olympics, the government then told the city’s drivers they would have to continue to leave their cars at home on a certain day of the week based on the last digit of their license plate number. The control took 20% of the cars off the roads daily since October last year, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.|
However, the city’s traffic reduction measures apparently couldn’t quite keep up with people’s appetite for cars.
The number of new cars purchased every day in China’s capital stands at about 2,000, Xinhua said Tuesday, citing the city’s municipal traffic management bureau. The article said vehicles in Beijing will hit the 4 million mark this weekend, which means one in four of the city’s 16 million permanent residents now has a car.
No wonder the city seems even more choked with traffic these days.
“The traffic jam was eased in the first several months after the car restriction measure took effect,” Xinhua quoted a taxi driver as saying. “However, that sense of ease began to fade since the first half of this year.”
Indeed, the number of major thoroughfares with traffic moving slower than 20 kilometers an hour has recently risen to 70 at the morning traffic peak, Xinhua said, citing the traffic bureau’s command center. “More than 90% of Beijing’s roads were overloaded,” the news agency quoted Zhang Jingchun, director of the bureau’s information office, as saying.
China’s domestic vehicle sales were up about 50% in the year’s first 11 months, and the country is on track to post total vehicle sales of more than 13 million vehicles this year, displacing the U.S. as the world’s biggest auto market.
To ease traffic, Beijing plans to expand its subway system to 273 kilometers by 2010 and to 561 kilometers by 2020, Xinhua said. By then, nearly 40% of residents are expected to choose to travel by bus and subway.
Maybe. But Beijing may need to look at more traffic restrictions unless it quickly and significantly improves and redesigns its transportation infrastructure. Either that or hope for economic slowdown.
– Norihiko Shirouzu