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Official hopeful car plate prices won't rise

By Zha Minjie (Shanghai Daily)

09:23, May 03, 2012

Shanghai's top traffic official says that the government is hopeful that car plate prices will not keep rising.

But the traffic administration is caught in a dilemma since the city will face a heavier burden on roads if more car plates are issued each month, with the decline of plate prices.

"Of course some residents will say to me that since you also do not want to see higher car plate prices then please issue more quotas each month," said Sun Jianping, director of the Shanghai traffic and port administration, yesterday.

Sun said the number of private cars in the city would surpass 3.3 million if measures are not taken soon, hinting that traffic would be much worse if the government did not tackle the car plate issue.

The city now has more than 1.7 million privates cars.

The average car plate price has soared to more than 60,000 yuan (US$9,538) after the latest auction last month, hitting a record high, amid buyers' expectations that prices will continue to rise. The city government increased the quota to 8,500 last month, 500 more than that in March. The number of bidders was 22,706.

Many residents and car buyers, who joke that the Shanghai license plate is "the most expensive piece of steel," believe that the car plate auction policy, which began in 1994, has little effect on curbing the increase in car numbers or improving public transport facilities.

On the other hand, with plate prices continuing to break record high, some residents are forced to turn to out-of-town plates or even underground illegal ones.

"People who need cars anyway will seldom be affected by the plate prices," said Wang Guorong, a researcher with the Shanghai Social Science Academy.

However, experts claim there is no better or fairer way to tackle the plate issue in Shanghai which keeps adding private cars on its road amid continued speculation that the auctions will be dropped soon.

Sales of private car plates in Shanghai raise billions of yuan for the city each year.

Sun said the money collected from the auction is used to improve city traffic, ground transport as well as to build subways.

The Shanghai Finance Bureau said the fiscal income from plate auctions hit 4.15 billion yuan in 2010, compared to 2009's 2.59 billion. The government spent 2.4 billion yuan from the accumulated income from plate auctions on supporting public transport in 2010. It was used to subsidize transit bus companies' purchase of greener buses, cover losses incurred by offering free rides to senior citizens and funding discount programs to encourage more people to take public transport.

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