Drivers pushed to park at home

13:44, January 26, 2010      

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Motorists are likely to fume after the city indicated it will drive forward with plans to charge more to park in Beijing, with rates likely to rocket as soon as March.

The move is aimed at discouraging motorists from driving and cutting down on congestion, Beijing officials said.

Meanwhile, the current car ban, which sees vehicles with certain license plate numbers banned from city streets on specific days, is also likely to continue, officials said during the ongoing annual legislative meeting.

But they said there is no imminent plan to restrict car ownership by charging more in tax or by introducing license tolls, despite the fact that some legislators have urged the government to do so.

Guo Jinlong, Beijing's mayor, said the capital's car population now stands at 4.07 million and is growing faster than in any other major city in the region.

Beijing has about 5.5 million licensed drivers.

Despite measures including the controversial "no car" day regulation, there are more cars on the streets than ever and more congestion and minor collisions as a result, the traffic management bureau has said.

Vice Mayor Huang Wei said the municipal government will likely carry on with the prohibition of certain cars on certain days until the majority of commuters choose to take public transit, which is currently being expanded with multi-billion-dollar projects each year.

Zhang Gong, director of Beijing's municipal commission of development, said yesterday authorities will release a plan in two weeks that details just how much drivers will have to pay to park.

After soliciting comments from the public, the government will move forward with the plan.

Speakers at the meeting yesterday engaged in a heated debate about whether the authorities should intervene in the auto market to try to ease urban traffic jams.

"Authorities should raise the financial bar for owning a vehicle," said Wu Song, a political advisor and a senior doctor with the Beijing Union College Hospital, who also filed a proposal to the annual meeting for discussion.

"The move will remove vehicles from congested roads and raise more funding to invest in the expansion of public transit citywide."

Liu Ning, another political advisor and a senior lawyer from the Beijing Yihang Law Firm, told METRO on the sidelines of the meeting that the time may have passed for such a policy.

"Restricting car ownership is a good option, but sadly, it's too late for Beijing to do so," Liu said.

Liu Xiaoming, director of the municipal communications commission, said the authority "cannot and should not introduce national policies for the auto market" that will prevent residents from buying either new cars or previously owned vehicles.

Source: China Daily
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