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Govt may alter hours to ease traffic
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08:11, June 02, 2009

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As Beijing continues to suffer major traffic congestion, with some 3.6 million vehicles on the streets, the government has proposed that the city's civil servants not add to rush-hour woes.

As part of a new plan, which may be approved by the end of this year, government offices will be asked to either alter their schedules so that officials don't have to clog the city's streets further during peak traffic hours, or allow officials to do their jobs from home.

Though no official figures are available to determine the exact number of government-owned vehicles in Beijing, it is estimated that "about 30 percent" of the cars using the capital's roads each day belong to State-level, municipality-level institutions and armed forces.

As part of efforts to reduce congestion on the streets during the Olympics and Paralympics last summer, the local government applied flexible working hours citywide. The move, along with strict bans for government-owned and private cars, ensured smooth traffic movements during both mega events.

After heated debates over the government's right to ban the movement of private cars, Beijing decided to continue an alternating ban on private vehicles depending on their license plate numbers.

Experts said the new plan of flexible government working hours is bound to ease traffic congestion in the city.

Last month, the Beijing transport authority said over "80 percent of private car owners and public transport users" supported the ban on cars on certain days depending on the license plate numbers.

Li Yunwei, a Beijing-based vehicle owner, who advocates minimal use of cars, said: "If the government can really make its hours flexible to ease pressure on the streets during rush hour, it will be great."

However, a taxi driver surnamed Wang said he did not think the move will ease the traffic on the city's streets.

"How many cars will be taken off the road during rush hour?" he asked.

Jia Yuanhua, a transportation professor at the Beijing Jiaotong University said there were more practical measures to reduce pressure from the roads than flexible office hours.

"Compared with the cities in the foreign countries, our urban transportation facilities lag behind five to 10 years. A comprehensive planning for the urban transportation is very important," he said.

Source: China Daily

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