Beijing's new traffic rules trigger hot debate

22:12, December 10, 2010      

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Beijing will soon release a draft traffic plan that aims to ease the city's traffic gridlock problem, an unnamed city government official told Xinhua Friday.

The city government hopes to receive feedback from citizens and experts on the plan before making a final one.

The official refused to comment on unconfirmed details reported by Economy and Nation Weekly earlier this month.

Some of the unconfirmed details are:

-- An odd-even license plate restriction system in central Beijing;

-- Car purchasers will have to have a parking permit before they are allowed to buy a car;

-- A 2-yuan congestion fee will be charged on every liter of gasoline or diesel sold;

-- Every household will be limited to purchasing one car.

At a meeting last Thursday, Liu Qi, Party Secretary of Beijing Municipality, said the State Council has basically approved Beijing's traffic management plan.

But even before it comes out, the unconfirmed details of the plan prompted a rush of car-buying and hot debate among citizens and experts.

In the first week of December, more than 20,000 vehicles were sold, more than double the 9,000 vehicles sold in the same period of 2009.

Many buyers said they would buy cheap cars - priced between 30,000 yuan to 50,000 yuan - just to get a license plate before any restrictions are implemented.

In addition, according to an online survey with 10,000 respondents conducted by major Chinese Internet portal, only 6.4 percent of those surveyed thought the plan would be highly effective. More than one third thought the plan would have no effect.

"Using economic measures to cool the auto boom and its attendant traffic congestion problem seems to be a method learned from foreign countries. But the assumption is we have the same mature public transport systems that those other countries have," one respondent pointed out.

People also expressed concern about the implementation of the ambitious plan.

"If license plates are limited to a certain number and buyers must have a parking place first, the restrictions may encourage corruption," said one netizen's posting.

Beijing's Yayuncun automobile exchange market, the largest in Beijing, is regarded as a barometer of the Chinese car market.

Its vice president, Yan Jinghui, said people rushed to buy new cars because they fear the restrictive policies that may be implemented and tend to believe the unconfirmed details that were reported.

"Car sales in November were 25 percent more than in October," Yan said.

But despite all the concern, some citizens are looking at the positive sides. They point out that some of the unconfirmed report indicated that the government will enlarge bikes lanes and build other facilities to encourage bicycling.

"I don't have a car and my work place is two bus stops from the nearest subway station. So if I can rent a bike from the subway station, it would be a convenient way to avoid the gridlock," Zhao Fengxia, a Beijing citizen said.

"I look forward to the new plan," Zhao added.

According to Beijing Transportation Research Center research, the city will have 7 million motor vehicles before 2015. At that time, car speed will be 15 km per hour, which is equal to the speed of an easy jog.

Of the 667 Chinese cities, about two-thirds of them suffer traffic congestion during peak hour.

Analysts say inadequate city planning and population growth are the major causes of urban traffic congestion.

Wu Liangyong, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the increasing number of super-sized residential communities is another possible reason for traffic jams.

Zhang Xianfeng, an analyst at the Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning and Design, suggests companies and government move some business districts to satellite cities.

Zhang thinks public resources should be distributed evenly in accordance with population distribution.

Other experts have ideas too.

Yin Qiang, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication of the Renmin University of China, said the government should encourage people to work from home.

"With a laptop and a network cable, people can easily connect with the world and telecommute," Yin said.

Source: Xinhua


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