News / Asia

Beijing Limits Car Ownership to Ease Road Congestion

Vehicles are seen in a traffic jam during weekday rush hour in Beijing, 10 Jan 2011
Vehicles are seen in a traffic jam during weekday rush hour in Beijing, 10 Jan 2011

Since opening up its economy 30 years ago, China has gone from being a nation of bicycle riders to being the world’s largest car market. But now its major cities face traffic gridlock. To clear the roads, Beijing’s government has started a lottery system for new car licenses.

Cars are among the new status symbols of China’s growing middle class. New passenger car sales in China last year rose 33 percent to 13.8 million.

But all those cars are causing new problems for the country, including huge traffic jams.

Despite huge investments in roads and mass transit in the sprawling Chinese capital, Beijing’s roads can not cope with the increasing number of cars. A global survey by technology company IBM last year showed that Beijing commuters spend the longest time on the road.

Sixty-nine percent of Beijing respondents said that during the past three years, traffic had been so bad they had turned around and gone home.

"The government has mobilized a large amount of financial resources for building infrastructure for highways, urban street and mass rail transit," said Liu Zhi, the lead infrastructure specialist in East Asia and the Pacific at the World Bank. He works in Beijing. "But the growth of the infrastructure capacity cannot be as fast as car ownership because of limitation of space," he added.

In its latest move to ease gridlock, the Beijing municipal government this month capped the number of new car licenses at 240,000 this year, one third of the licenses issued in 2010. The licenses will be issued through a lottery.

Liu says while Beijing continues to invest in infrastructure, limits on car use are also needed.

"I think it’s very important now for developing cities how to use the demand-side measure [measures to cut demand] to manage the motorization process," said Liu. "I’m glad to see that Beijing is moving toward to the demand-side solution."

Some Beijing residents welcome the new measures. This 50-year-old man says he stopped using his car and now rides his bicycle because of the traffic.

He says he does not think that the government should impose too many restrictions but at the same time there are too many people buying cars. He says the city has developed too fast. The streets have expanded too fast, the population has grown too fast.

However, Wang Ye, a housewife, thinks the restrictions are not useful. She says the existing number of cars already makes the city crowded.

She thinks the measures are random, as if you are sick, and a doctor comes and gives you a random medicine and tells you that you will be well. She says there is no guarantee that you will feel better.

Beijing also will increase parking fees and more strictly enforce traffic rules.

Other fast developing cities in Asia have had similar traffic problems in the past. Bangkok, another sprawling metropolis, had notorious traffic jams in the 1990s.

The city built a mass transport system that reduced the need for people to drive around the city center, although traffic jams that last hours are still common. And the city has warned residents that the construction of new commuter rail lines, which begins this year, will worsen congestion for the next three years.

Liu says it takes time see changes.

"In the longer term, as long as we are moving to the right direction and to manage private car and traffic development in the city, and with more public transport in the future, and with the demand-side measures in place that is accepted by the public, I’m sure the traffic condition will get back to a much better managed situation than today," he said.

As the number of cars increased in China, safety has also become an issue. Many new car buyers are new drivers with little training. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health and China Central South University say the number of traffic-related deaths nationwide may be more than double the police report.

They say that in 2007 for example, as many 221,135 people died in traffic accidents based on death certificates, compared with the 81,649 traffic deaths the police report.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid