Authorities are likely to announce new vehicle restrictions in the capital today following improvements in traffic conditions and air quality from driving bans first used for the Olympics last year, Beijing officials said yesterday.
"New car restrictions will probably be unveiled on Friday to replace the current ones," said Wang Zhaorong, spokesman for the Beijing municipal committee of communications.
Beijing's post-Olympics driving ban trial began on Oct 11 and is set to expire on April 10.
The rules, based on license plate numbers, are said to take one-fifth of the city's 3 million vehicles off the road on weekdays.
The current restrictions apply within and including the Fifth Ring Road from 6 am to 9 pm for private cars and around the clock for government and corporate vehicles.
The ban does not apply to emergency vehicles, mass transit vehicles or other public service vehicles.
The initial ban for the Olympics, based on an odd-even license plate system, took 45 percent of the cars off the roads and helped clear the skies, but as soon as the ban was lifted in September last year, traffic jams resumed.
Traffic jams in the capital were reduced by more than five hours a day in the past six months under the trial driving ban, figures released by the Beijing Transportation Research Center (BTRC) showed yesterday.
Daily vehicle emissions also fell by 375 ton, or 10 percent, the center reported.
"Though the number of newly registered automobiles has increased by 454,000 from November 2007 until February, traffic jams did not get worse," said BTRC chief Guo Jifu.
Beijing now has 3.6 million automobiles and 5.25 million licensed drivers, official statistics show.
Air quality is also getting better with the driving ban and the number of inhalable particles has gone down by 8 percent, Wang Xiaoming of the municipal environment protection bureau said.
A BTRC survey of more than 3,600 car owners in the city showed that 85 percent of those polled supported extending the current driving ban, officials said.
Xu Kangming, an international consultant on urban transportation, said the policy to have automobiles off roads one day a week is a "very efficient measure to cope with the capital's traffic jam and deteriorating environmental conditions".
"As a metropolis with a population of more than 16 million, the city has to adopt control measures while forcefully developing public transportation services," Xu said.
However, many motorists still opposed the ban.
"I believe most car owners hate the ban and hope to drive without any form of restriction," said Zhang Li, who works in an accounting company.
"Some of my peers have even bought or are considering buying another car regardless of the restrictions," Zhang said.
Xinhua contributed to the story