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Easing traffic tops Beijing work agenda

By Jin Haixing  (China Daily)

16:14, March 06, 2013

Easing road congestion has been placed at the top of Beijing's work agenda this year.

The government has released a to-do list with 32 items to benefit people in 2013, five of which involved traffic, Beijing News reported on Tuesday.

According to the 1,500 suggestions received from local residents, people are most concerned with how to solve traffic jams and improve living conditions, said Wu Dacang, from the general office of the municipal government.

Pollution generated by the heavy traffic has become a hot topic, with data showing that 22.2 percent of PM2.5 - potentially harmful microscopic particulate matter - comes from vehicle emissions, Wu said.

Beijing plans to finish 30 projects to address the traffic, open and change 40 bus lines and replace 3,000 old buses, according to the list.

In addition, 20,000 parking spaces, 10 km of bus lanes and more subway lines will be developed. By the end of this year, the length of subway lines in Beijing is expected to reach 465 km.

One of the goals is to ensure the traffic congestion index within the Fifth Ring Road, Beijing's main urban area, does not rise above level 5, according to an earlier statement from Beijing's transport commission.

The index indicates the general situation and ranges from 0 (no congestion) to 10 (heavily congested).

These latest measures to unclog the roads are more flexible, as the city aims to develops public transport and attract more people, said Chen Yanyan, a professor at Beijing University of Technology's Transport Research Center.

"In such a large city as Beijing, it's hard to control the number of daily journeys, but the government could improve the transport structure of daily trips by making public transport more attractive," she said.

Measures such as limiting car purchases with the license plate lottery have had some effect, but more importantly authorities need to raise awareness of green transportation among the public, she said.

"When people realize they could be victims of traffic jams or air pollution caused by car emissions, more people will choose public transportation," Chen said, adding that reducing pollution is connected to traffic jam management because vehicles at low speeds will give off more emissions during traffic jams.

"The city has too many private vehicles," said Wang Yaqin, a resident of Moshikou Nanli community in Shijingshan district. "It's a paradox for the government to control car purchases because it will limit consumption by residents, thus hurting economic development."

In Wang's community, traffic is a problem because of the narrow roads and number of vehicles using them.

Wang said the government should use scientific planning for road construction and public transportation development.

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