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Commute in Beijing longer than ever, new approaches needed

By Wei Na  (Global Times)

09:10, October 24, 2011

The staggered working hours system Beijing has experimented with in an effort to improve the city's traffic conditions is not working, and the rush hour is in fact getting longer.

According to the blue book released by Beijing Academy of Social Sciences (BASS) Sunday, the rush hour has been extended for one hour both in the morning, and the evening.

A research report from the book conducted a survey on residents' commuting in 2005 and 2010 to make the comparisons. The statistics were collected two months after the policy of staggered working hours was introduced in April 2010.

The report shows that the average commuting time (by all methods of transport, personal and public) in 2010 was 45 minutes, a 19 percent increase compared to the time in 2005. The most congested area of the city was Guomao, in the CBD.

"There's problems in the city planning. Residential and commercial areas are far apart, so people have to do longer commutes," said Ye Limei, deputy director of the Urban Problems Institute of BASS.

"First, people spend more time on the roads, so it doesn't matter if they started or left work earlier or later, and also many civil servants didn't stick to the new schedules," said Sheng Guangyao, a researcher from the Institute of Urban Environment at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Although public transportation construction developed rapidly after 2008, at probably the fastest speed ever, it still cannot catch up with the commuting needs of the growing population, Ye said.

"It's time for the government to think of detailed policies that could decrease the [commuting] needs, like changing when the elderly can travel for free," she said.

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