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Cars crowd roads as new traffic rules take effect in Beijing
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The morning rush hour in Beijing was just about as bad as usual Monday, despite new rules that were meant to take 20 percent of the vehicles off the roads, city officials said.

There were serious jams on parts of the Second and Third Ring Roads from about 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Monday, according to the Beijing Transport Administration Bureau.

New rules took effect Monday that bar use of vehicles on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. according to the final digits of their license plates. Two numbers are affected each day: Monday, the numbers were zero or five.

Compared with the previous post-Olympics controls, the new limits last for one hour less (the previous ones began at 6 a.m.) and cover a slightly smaller area that excludes the Fifth Ring Road, one of six that encircle the capital.

The off-days are the same for 13 weeks in a row, compared with four weeks previously. The new rotation was designed to reduce confusion.

The restrictions, which are meant to take 20 percent of the city's 3.61 million vehicles off the roads each weekday, end on April 10, 2010.

During the Olympics and Paralympics last year, Beijing limited the use of most vehicles through an odd-even license plate system. The initiative took 45 percent of the cars off the roads and helped clear the skies, but as soon as the ban was lifted in September, traffic jams resumed.

Figures released by the Beijing Transportation Research Center (BTRC) last week showed that traffic jams had been reduced by five hours and 15 minutes a day during the six months since the post-Olympics restrictions took effect. Vehicular emissions were reduced by 10 percent every day.

BTRC statistics showed about 90 percent of city residents said they supported the restrictions and 89 percent said they were willing to see the rules extended.

But despite seemingly widespread support for the vehicle restrictions, they remain controversial.

"To impose the limits will to some degree help ease traffic jams and reduce air pollution, but could other measures like the lifting of parking fees be more scientific and efficient?" said a car owner Liu Qingquan.

"To divert vehicles by time spans can reduce congestion in rush hours," said another driver Li Jinrong. He also believed the new rule considered more of people's needs.

(Xinhua News Agency April 13, 2009)

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