Tue, Oct 07, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Beijing seeking to unclog traffic

ON THE ROAD With now more than 2 million cars on the capital's streets, urban planners are trying to work out ways to free up the city's traffic jams


The Chinese government is urgently seeking ways to ease traffic in Beijing as cars multiply by the millions, clogged roads undermine productivity and the 2008 Olympics draw nearer, the official news agency said yesterday.

The number of cars on the Chinese capital's traffic-clogged streets has surpassed 2 million -- and is expected to grow by at least 3 million more in the next few years, the Xinhua News Agency said.

Beijing recorded a total of 16,789 traffic jams last year, Xinhua said. It didn't specify exactly what counted as a traffic jam. But, it lamented, rush hour is "actually consuming 11 hours of the day."

"Beijing residents often joke that the time they spend on the way to work often turns out to be longer than their actual working hours," Xinhua said.

Duan Liren, former deputy director of Beijing's Traffic Control Bureau, said 1 million more vehicles hit Beijing's streets in the past seven years and an additional 3 million -- minimum -- are expected in the next few years.

Beijing's roads are struggling to keep up: The city government has spent more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) annually since 2000 upgrading roads and adding more than 2,000km of roads inside the city limits.

Population growth -- an increase of 3.8 million people in the past decade -- has also pushed the number of drivers up sharply. The government also blames "Beijing's urban design layout."

"Many government offices, shopping centers and large enterprises are located in the downtown area of Beijing, while most of their employees live far away and even in the suburban areas," Xinhua said. "It has become a major burden on the local public transportation system."

Xinhua said the Beijing government is considering encouraging citizens to use public transportation and car pools more. The agency, quoting "government sources," also said Beijing plans a policy of charging different parking fees for different vehicles, with private cars being required to pay more.

And He Zuoxiu, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, suggests public transit be expanded and "integrated" to help people move around more conveniently.

"For example, bus stations should be placed at or near subway entrances and exits to make it easier for those who need to take more than one public transportation on their outings," He was quoted as saying.

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