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Beijing Drives 400,000 Cars off Roads in Olympic Traffic Test
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About 400,000 private car owners in Beijing will be taking public transport on Friday as the city tests measures to improve air quality ahead of next year's Olympic Games.

Cars with odd-numbered license plates will be banned from the roads on Friday and Sunday, while cars with even-numbered registrations will be banned on Saturday and Monday.

The test period would also indicate how public transport would cope and its effect on easing congestion, said an official with the municipal transportation commission.

A worker at a Beijing taxi service center surnamed Guo told Xinhua on Thursday that taxi reservation lines were "extremely busy" as motorists sought alternative transport.

"Suddenly so many people are going to take taxis," Guo said, adding at least 95 percent of all taxis in the city would keep operating to ensure around-the-clock service.

A total of 1,600 taxis will be allocated to train stations and airports each day and more than 300 taxis will stay at more than ten venues of the "Good Luck Beijing" Olympics test event, according to the municipal transportation commission.

The use of about 1.3 million privately-owned and government automobiles -- excluding taxis, buses and emergency services -- will be banned over the four days.

It is estimated that 8.4 million people will take public transport, including buses, the subway and taxis, in the four days compared with 6.4 million on average.

Liu Xiaoming, deputy director of the municipal transportation commission, said public transport would be increased during the test period.

A daily increase of 10,000 bus runs would help ease the pressure caused by a sudden surge of passengers, and running times would be extended for an hour, sources with the commission said. "For the sake of Olympics, I can temporarily leave my car at home and take the subway to work," said a woman surnamed Tian.

A resident surnamed Lin whose license plate was odd said he would accept a ride from a neighbor with even-numbered plates on Friday and return the favor on Saturday.

Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said the city planned to adopt the alternate-day practice to ensure clean air during the 2008 Olympics.

Beijing has more than three million vehicles and more than four million drivers.

(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2007)

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