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Traffic Situation Improving in Capital

A top communications official with the Beijing municipal government vowed on Friday that traffic conditions during the 29th Olympic Games, which will be held in the capital in 2008, would be favorable.

"To achieve the goal, Beijing has this year accelerated construction of road networks and the public transportation system," Liu Xiaoming, vice director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Communications said yesterday at a press conference.

He also told that Beijing will not adopt policies to restrict the amount of private cars.

Privately-owned cars account for over 60 percent of the current 2.27 million motor vehicles in Beijing, sources said.

"Although the amount of cars has continued to rise, traffic congestion in urban Beijing was not worse this year," Liu said.

According to statistics provided by the transport management authority, the traffic handling capabilities of urban Beijing within the Fourth Ring Road have been enhanced this year.

The amount of vehicles and people passing through the area within a fixed time period grew by 15 percent compared with last year's figure.

"But people are still experiencing traffic jams as the amount of vehicles increases together with the growth of the road network," he said.

The amount of motor vehicles in Beijing witnessed an increase of 166,000 this year, sources said.

"The local government will instruct private car owners to use their vehicles more scientifically," he said.

For example, the municipal communications commission is planning to build parking lots beside major metro stations.

"Those who live outside the Fourth Ring Road are advised to drive to the stations and then transfer to the metro for work," Liu said yesterday.

Public transport, especially the urban railway, has been given priority by the Beijing municipal government to ease traffic congestion.

The total volume of special traffic lanes for buses has reached nearly 104 kilometers, with 11 more kilometers this year.

"We plan to make a network of special bus lanes to encourage more people to use the public transport system," he said.

Meanwhile, a total of 39 new public transport lines have been established and 1,800 new buses have been put into service so far in 2004, according to Liu.

"We aim to increase the number of people choosing public transport means among all traffic methods," Liu said.

According to the official, on average, only 27 percent of people in Beijing choose to use public transport.

"The figure in some overseas metropolises, such as Paris, London and Tokyo, is much bigger -- 60 percent or even 80 percent," he said.

Liu predicted that the proportion in Beijing will reach more than 40 percent by 2008.

The official pointed out that easing congestion requires a long-term strategy..

"Beijing still faces many traffic problems," he said.

(China Daily December 11, 2004)

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