Nanjing mulls traffic congestion fees

By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-09 07:26

NANJING: The capital of East China's Jiangsu Province is considering imposing a congestion fee to reduce traffic jams within the city.

Officials with the city's development and reform department recently told the Jinling Evening News that they were mulling the idea of levying a fee on vehicles entering the center of the city during peak hours.

Like other big cities in China, Nanjing has struggled to accommodate the growing number of vehicles clogging its streets. The situation has grown worse in recent years the average speed of a vehicle on a street in Nanjing is about 20 kilometers per hour.

That is slower than when Nanjing residents drove around in horse-drawn carts.

The city is also considering other measures to ease traffic, such as raising the tax on car purchases and parking fees, according to a draft White Paper on the city's transport development.

A detailed version of the congestion fee plan is not yet available. Any such scheme will be subject to a public hearing before being implemented.

Car owners dismayed

However, the initial reaction from car-owners has been anything but positive judging by the comments left on online bulletins.

"Private car owners already have a heavy burden to bear because of the high purchase tax, road tax, oil fees and parking fees," said a typical post from a netizen named Xiao Di.

Some experts said the city should improve its public transport offerings and develop a high-tech traffic management system before resorting to congestion fees, according to Nanfang Daily.

Several other cities in the country including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai have also considered congestion fees in recent years, but they have all shelved the idea fearing a public backlash.

London became the first city in Britain to introduce a congestion fee in 2003. Most vehicles entering the city have to pay 8 pounds (about $15) a day.

Singapore and some US cities have also used fees to ease traffic problems.

However, China's situation is unique because its public transport and road systems remain underdeveloped.

"To make matters worse, many public cars are used for private purposes in this country, which also contributes to traffic jams," Huangpu Jia, a researcher at the Hangzhou Traffic Research Center in Zhejiang Province, told the Oriental Morning Post.

Public cars, such as those owned by the government, take up a large share of road resources in Chinese cities.

For example, there were few traffic jams when the government banned 80 percent of Beijing's public cars from using the streets during the Sino-Africa Summit in November.

Beijing has issued new rules to promote the use of public transport to reduce the chronic traffic jams on its streets.

Under the new rules, bus fares for more than 200 routes were fixed at 1 yuan starting at the beginning of this year. And passengers with transit cards receive a 60 percent discount on all tickets.

As more people buy private vehicles, fewer people use public transport. However, the new rules have helped reduce the number of traffic jams, the Beijing Morning Post said.

Many netizens have already urged Nanjing to profit from Beijing's experience by introducing similar measures.

(China Daily 01/09/2007 page5)

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