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Beijing public transport commuters rise
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Beijing commuters using public transport now outnumber those using private cars, according to the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications.

The latest figures from the committee on Wednesday show 34.5 percent of the city's commuters now choose public transport, beating for the first time the number of people opting for private vehicles, which made up 32 percent of the total.

The increase comes in the wake of the city government's decision to spend 1 billion yuan (about US$1.33 million) a year slashing subway and bus fares. Subway fares have been cut by 30 percent.

Since Oct. 7, when the price cut took effect, the daily average of the city's subway passenger volume has reached 2.48 million, up 910,000 from the daily average of the previous nine months this year, according to the figures.

About half of the increased traffic was due to the No. 5 subway line, which was opened to commuters also on Oct. 7.

The other half came from the four existing lines. Each of them posted 33 percent to 50 percent increases in their passenger volumes, compared with the figures in the first nine months of the year.

In 2005, a total of 28.1 percent of commuters made their journeys to work by public transport. This had risen to 30.2 percent in April this year.

Currently, Beijing has five subway lines in operation, with a total length of 142 kilometers. The city will have nine lines totaling 200 km by 2008, and 19 lines totaling 561.5 km by 2020.

Proposal for construction of 41-km No. 6 subway line, the longest in Beijing, has passed government appraisal and construction is scheduled to start by the end of this year.

The line will run from east to west across the northern part of the city, parallel with the existing No.1 line, to facilitate suburbs-downtown commuting.

Beijing, a city with a population of 17 million and more than 3 million registered vehicles, has been trying to boost public transportation to ease traffic pressure and improve air quality ahead of the 2008 Olympics.

The capital has staged a slew of measures, including improving public transport structure, slashing bus fares by 60 percent for residents since the beginning of this year and imposing temporary car bans.

Beijing's subway operator has also announced on Wednesday that two new six-carriage trains will be put in service next week on the No.1 and No.2 subway lines, two oldest lines in the city.

The trains are better equipped and can raise passenger loads by 10 percent to a maximum number of 1,820 passengers per train.

A total of 264 such new trains will put into operation on the two lines before the 2008 Olympics.

The city's public transport system now carries 15 million commuters every day, and the number is expected to rise to 28 million by 2012. The city aims to raise the proportion of people commuting on public transit to 50 percent by then.

(Xinhua News Agency November 1, 2007)

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