The people of Beijing can look forward to low fares on buses and the subway long after the Olympics has finished, a senior city official said Wednesday.
"The current low ticket prices are not just for the duration of the Games ... they will remain in place for a considerable time afterward," Zhou Zhengyu, deputy director of the Beijing municipal committee of communications, told a press conference.
Keeping prices down is a good way to encourage people to use public transport and will help reduce the numbers of cars on the roads, which in turn will cut emissions, he said.
At the beginning of last year, transport authorities in Beijing cut the standard price of a bus ticket by 60 percent for regular passengers and by 80 percent for students.
In October, they slashed the price of a single journey subway ticket by 30 percent to 2 yuan (30 cents).
As a result of the cheaper fares, and the traffic control measures introduced for the Olympics, the proportion of Beijing residents now taking public transport on a daily basis is up to 45 percent, from 35 percent, according to figures released Wednesday by the committee.
We are determined to maintain the 45 percent usage figure even after the traffic control measures are lifted, Zhou said.
"And keeping fares low is key to achieving that," he said.
Beijing's rapid urbanization, the massive increase in private car ownership and the population boom - it is now home to about 17 million people - have put "tremendous" pressure on the city's transport infrastructure, Zhou said.
"Twenty years ago, people wanted to buy household appliances. Today, our economy has reached the stage where everyone wants a car," he said.
Beijing is home to about 3.3 million cars and the figure is growing by 300,000 a year, he said.
"The only solution to these challenges is the continuous development of our public transport system," he said.
By 2015, authorities in the capital plan to build 11 more subway lines with a total length of 561 km, compared with the current eight lines stretching 200 km, Zhou said.
Beijingers Wednesday said they were happy the low ticket prices are set to stay.
"I've got used to the lower prices. If they go back up, I'll have to rework my monthly expenditure," Du Shufen said Wednesday while waiting for a bus at the Wukesong bus station in west Beijing.
The reduced fares have been saving her about 50 yuan a month, which is a significant amount, she said.
Also Wednesday, Zhou said the Beijing government has no plans to continue with the odd-even license plate restriction once the Olympics has finished, despite its success at curbing pollution.