Automobile numbers could be capped

11:14, October 19, 2009      

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As many as 5.5 million cars will be on Beijing's roads by 2015, although the growth rate will stabilize in the next five years, a senior local transport official said.

Beijing's car community will hit 4 million by the beginning of next year and will then grow by an average of 300,000 cars a year, compared to the present rate of 400,000, to reach 5.5 million in 2015, Liu Xiaoming, director of the Beijing municipal committee of communications, said.

Liu said the municipal government would not restrict the number of cars on the road at the moment, but would not rule out doing so in the future.

"But efforts would be made to reduce public needs for cars and restrict their use and parking through overall traffic planning and related policies," he said.

By next year, Beijing's car community will have grown by 1 million in only two-and-a-half years. It took cities like Tokyo 12 years to reach that rate of growth.

Authorities have tried to ease persistent traffic jams and reduce emissions with an on-going car ban in the city, which stops motorists from driving one day every week based on their license plate number.

They have also attempted to enlarge and enhance the city's public transport system. Official estimates show public transport would make up to 50 percent of the total passenger trips in the central urban areas by 2015, while 20 percent of journeys will be made on bicycles.

Liu said that less reliance on private cars would ensure that vehicle emissions do not exceed that of 2008, despite increasing vehicles.

But Jia Yuanhua, a transportation professor at Beijing Jiaotong University who is a proponent for car controls, said the government should control the number of vehicles since the road resources are limited.

"The government would not restrict the purchase of cars because they need to support the growth of the industry and increase GDP during the financial crisis," he said.

"But that is not sustainable and we have to take into consideration the traffic capacity."

Lu Huapu, director of the institute of transportation engineering, Tsinghua University, also expressed concern over the city's infrastructure capacity.

"The Chinese people like to use their cars frequently once they have one and I really doubt whether we can support such an enormous need," Lu said.

Source:China Daily
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