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Citizens Cautiously Optimistic for Traffic Drill
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From August 17 to 20, about 1.3 million vehicles – nearly half of the total 3 million in Beijing – will be banned from roads as part of pre-Olympic tests.

During the drill, vehicles with license plates ending in an odd number will be allowed on the roads on August 17 and 19, and plates ending in an even number permitted on August 18 and 20.

Most citizens say they would support the drill

20 metro and bus riders and 20 private car drivers were interviewed by the Beijing News last Thursday, and all said the four-day-drill would not seriously impede their commuting.

Most of those who typically take public transport are not car owners. They believe that Beijing should take actions to cut down on number of private cars out on the streets. "I would applaud the decision even if it were for the whole year," said Ms. Liao, who lives in the Fangzhuang area.

Two private car drivers echoed her view: "Beijing's traffic congestion will never be eased if people feel they must drive everywhere. The city would be better off with some vehicles restricted."

Another 10 drivers said they would manage to do without a car for the drill. They believe the small sacrifice would be worthwhile for the Olympic Games.

All of the 40, however, shared a common concern: Is the city's public transport system capable of handling an extra million passengers?

Will public transport crush under pressure?

1.3 million vehicles kept away from the roads would add massive pressure to the public transport system, and many fear a breakdown during rush hours.

An official from the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communication noted that the government would take the necessary actions to increase transport capacity in downtown and the suburbs, large communities in particular.

Moreover, over 95 percent of the 66,000 taxis in the capital would be available for passengers from August 17 to 20, with some stationed at major stadiums for contingencies. Rush hour services of metro systems will be extended to three hours, 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM, from the usual two hours, 7 AM to 9 AM.

In addition, intervals between trains of Metro Line 1 and Line 2 will be shortened during non-peak times, and ten backup trains will be prepared.

Will rule-violators be held responsible?

Many drivers are concerned about possible violations of the rules, and question what would be done about cars that sneak onto the roads. To further complicate the matter, an extra 20 percent of government vehicles would be included in the drill. Could traffic control authorities find a way to monitor all these cars?

It might be comforting to know that Beijing is no stranger to tightened traffic controls. During the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in November 2006, nearly 500,000 non-private vehicles were barred from streets.

On first day of the forum, 43 forbidden automobiles took to the roads, all detected by cameras or stopped by police. The Municipal Traffic Safety Committee immediately issued warnings and conducted investigations.

The person in charge of the Beijing Traffic Administration Bureau explained that the Automatic Traffic-Accident-Monitoring System played a big role. All information about the banned vehicles, such as license plate numbers, was collected in an Automatic Information Identification System. The system is equipped with electronic eyes, detectors and cameras. As soon as a car hit the road against the rules, it would be instantly caught by the system.

(China.org.cn by Zou Di, August 13, 2007)

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