A Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport (BMCT) spokeswoman has been explaining why it plans to issue only one-third of the number of vehicle licenses next year than it did in 2010.
According to the new regulations, only 240,000 vehicle licenses will be available in 2011 in an attempt to ease the city's growing traffic gridlock.
Li Xiaosong was responding to people's questions, and in particular explaining the thinking behind the commission's decision to issue 240,000 licenses.
Li, vice-director of the BMCT, said on Beijing Public Service Radio that the calculation was made based on both the anticipated level of demand and the city's ability to accommodate more vehicles.
"The figure may change according to real situations each year in the future," Li said.
The policy was drawn up in response to three factors, Li explained. First, there is limited space in the urban area. Second, many local roads are already at capacity. And third, air pollution in the capital has become a serious problem and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.
Li also said that both Shanghai and Hong Kong have even stricter controls on the number of new vehicles allowed to join traffic on their streets. The two cities have rules in place that stipulate that no more than 10,000 and 1,000 cars respectively can be added annually.
According to statistics from the BMCT, before 2007 the number of vehicles being registered each year in Beijing hovered around 180,000. However, the number of new registrations has shot up since 2006 with 250,000 added in 2007, 370,000 in 2008, and 515,000 in 2009.
As of Dec 19, the capital had 4.76 million vehicles, 700,000 more than at the beginning of 2010. The sharp reduction in the number of available vehicle licenses captured the public's attention when the BMCT's plan was released.
One observer said it doesn't matter how many cars are on the city's streets as much as how drivers behave once they get behind the wheel.
"I don't think the large number of cars is the only reason why there are traffic jams in Beijing," said a netizen named Daziran on news.qq.com.
"Actually, the traffic jams are made worse by the fact that many drivers do not abide by traffic rules and some roads are not scientifically designed."
(China Daily 12/28/2010)