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Commentary: Balance autos with city growth
( 2003-07-29 09:08) (China Daily)

Traffic jams are the bane of cities around the world. But for China finding a solution to the growing problem has gained added urgency as the nation strides towards becoming a leading global carmaker.

A recent report revealed that the number of vehicles in Beijing is approaching 2 million after a jump of 170,000 in the first half of this year.

The rocketing number of vehicles in big cities like Beijing is testimony to both the boom of the domestic automobile market and the robustness of the country's urban economy.

With an impressive 38.5 per cent annual growth, the highest in the past decade, vehicle output in the country reached 3.25 million in 2002 and is set to exceed 4 million this year.

On the other hand, with increasing bank balances, city dwellers are showing a keen appetite for cars.

But the auto boom is a precursor to nightmare for urban planners. The increase of cars, which far outstrips improvement of road conditions, will sooner or later bring traffic to a snail's crawl or grinding standstill in major cities.

Such a scenario should serve as a timely warning over the burgeoning auto sector which is rushing to expand production capacity.

Even major cities like Beijing, which is investing heavily in road and traffic improvement in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games, will reach a saturation point for car ownership.

A proper solution to the problem is needed, while simply imposing a limit on the purchase of cars is not a wise answer. As yet, consumption has not been adequately boosted to fuel economic growth as the other two growth engines of investment and exports did.

The explosive growth of the domestic auto market has been advocated as a boon to consumption which can effectively stoke the furnace of continued economic growth.

To turn this forecast into a reality, efforts need to focus on upgrading traffic flow and regulations and this requires more scientific methods for controlling traffic during the rush hour and on main roads.

Local government needs to bear in mind that finding early solutions to traffic problems is not only better for the consumption environment, but also one of the obligations they have towards their citizens.


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