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Traffic Congestion in Beijing: What to Do?

Traffic congestion is a prominent problem in Beijing with automobiles increasing by 10 percent annually and roads being extended by only 2 percent. With this in mind, www.china.org.cn interviewed Zhang Jianfei, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and also vice-president of Plan and Research Institute of the Ministry of Communication, who put forward his own proposals on how to deal with the traffic problems in Beijing.

The rapid increasing of automobiles seems to be overwhelming in Beijing as people’s incomes increase while prices of automobiles decrease. Moreover, Zhang Jianfei said, price for housing in Beijing is quite high, especially near the heart of the city where houses go for as high as 10, 000 yuan (US$1,209.6) per square meter. In response, residents who have to move to the suburbs also buy cars as their means of transport. But development of roads has not matched the rapid increase of automobiles. If appropriate measures are taken, the resulting traffic congestion can be dealt with.

How to deal with Beijing’s traffic congestions? Zhang Jianfei puts forward a five-point proposal:

  • Increase fees for parking. Most car owners are high-income people for whom the impact of a hike in parking fees will be minimal, Zhang said. Beijing’s parking fees now are much lower compared with Shanghai, Guangzhou or Chongqing. For instance, it costs 5 yuan (about 60 cents) an hour to park in Guangzhou, but only 2 yuan (about 24 cents) for a whole day in Beijing. The low parking fees only encourage random car-buying by Beijingers, and reasonable parking fees can help deal with the traffic congestions in Beijing.

  • Add more parallel roads to form a more efficient network. Zhang said road reconstruction in Being has a bad habit of favoring widening of existing highways, unfavorable to addressing the traffic problem. First of all, it’s expensive and slow. Next, after road-widening is completed, some of the roads just attract more automobiles, giving rise to more problems.

  • Widen crossroads that are traffic bottlenecks. Zhang explained that crossroads get jammed because traffic lights reduce the flow of traffic by about 50 percent or more to cause a series of traffic jams or gridlock. People can see the problems at Xizhimen and Chegongguang crossroads. Traffic jams still exist at Xizhimen following costly reconstruction because of the bottleneck at Chegongzhuang, a crossroad next to Xizhimen. Therefore, Beijing should not expand its road system in an uncoordinated way. A coordinated system connecting roads and their intersections will be more conducive to alleviating traffic jams.

  • Develop a better subway plan. Zhang said that since subway construction is very expensive, every very inch of the subway should be fully used. In foreign countries, any of two stations are not far apart from each other, which is quite convenient for people. While in Beijing, there is a long distance between two stations. Moreover, Zhang said that the layout of the subway in Beijing has shortcomings. Suburbs should not develop solely on the subways. The government should first deal with the traffic problems disturbing the residents in the urban city right now. Zhang said, “which is more important, the on-going construction of Sihui to Tongzhou County subway or Line 5, the subway connecting inner city’s Dongdan to Dongsi from south to north. Obviously, Line 5 is more urgent.”

  • Scale back on taxis. Zhang said that Beijing now has so many taxis -- 67, 000 -- that often travel empty, which means a great waste of the traffic resources. It is rare in the world, Zhang said, to see a taxi having to spend hours at an airport to wait for its turn to pick up a fare as taxis do at Beijing International Airport. The municipal government once required taxi companies to provide enough taxis to make sure that people could get one at any time. The proposal is quite good but adds to the traffic burden.

    Finally, Zhang said: “When Beijing hosts big events, the city usually has traffic controls along adjacent roads that bring many troubles to citizens. The present traffic conditions do not meet the requirement of the 2008 Olympic Games. The problems should not be dealt solely as a matter of money. Some measures that cost less but are efficient should be taken into account.

    (By Zhang Yan, china.org.cn staff reporter, translated by Unisumoon March 15, 2002)

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