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Beijing addresses jams to improve traffic
( 2003-10-17 01:02) (China Daily)

Through adjusting the layout of Beijing's transportation network, the municipal government is striving to cope with the city's problem of traffic jams, while maintaining its current economic growth stemming from a modern automobile industry.

Beijing Vice-Mayor Zhai Hongxiang admitted on Friday at the seventh session of the Standing Committee of the 12th Beijing Municipal People's Congress that traffic jams have become a major challenge confronting the municipal authority.

And the way out, she said, will lie more in the "stepped-up development of public transport and improvement in related infrastructure facilities should lead to an adjustment of the layout of the local transport network.''

Although Zhai mentioned the city is "considering'' collecting licence plate fees from car owners, she left little doubt that Beijing might hold back somewhat on its ambition for a vigorous automobile industry in the shadow of debilitating traffic jams.

Specifically, the municipal government should adopt effective policies to guide local car owners to move out of downtown Beijing and live in the city's suburbs. Of these new measures, the heavier pricing of downtown parking lots over their suburban counterparts expects to play an important role, according to Zhai.

Mainly because of poor urban planning, Beijing is troubled by insufficient parking. For more than 2 million cars, there are at least 20,000 parking places in short, said Zhai.

Against this backdrop, more and more public parking lots have started to charge fees, while most newly built residential areas in the city no longer provide free parking spaces. Each parking spot costs 150 yuan (US$18), while an underground one might charge as much as 350 yuan (US$42.30) per month.

"The city will pledge more money and efforts into developing public transportation, especially an integrated public transport system allowing people to reach every corner of the city,'' said Zhai.

"As for those car owners who have moved to the suburbs, they are encouraged to leave their cars at large-scale parking lots close to various suburban transportation hubs and embark on public transit to get downtown.''

Zhai believed a good interface of various forms of public transportation, such as buses, subways and light rail trains, will help fulfil the goal. Because it takes passengers an average of 350 metres to shift among various public transportation forms at present, 16 per cent of users may even have to trudge over 1 kilometre for such transfers.

The target of the municipal government is to have the city's public transportation system accommodate 45 per cent of the city's passenger transportation by the year 2005. The present figure is 26.5 per cent, much lower than 35 per cent in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, Zhai disclosed that the city will carry on its efforts in road construction.

"Wider and further reaching roads are always a help here,'' she said. "The next year alone will see 1,033 kilometres of roads renovated or newly built, bringing the city's total length of roads to 15,430 kilometres.''

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