Although there are three million registered vehicles on the road, Beijing is still confident in having blue skies for the Olympic Games next year. City officials will implement new emission standards for vehicles and upgrade public transport system, which they announced at a press conference by The Organizing Committee for the Beijing Olympic Games (BOCOG) on Thursday.
The three millionth vehicle owner got his car registered last Saturday in Beijing, ushering a new era in the municipal development, which is now influenced by cars.
"Gas emissions contribute a lot to air pollution and restrictions on vehicle emissions will be the city's priority to improve Beijing's air quality," said Ji Lin, a vice mayor of Beijing at the conference.
Statistics from the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said one third of the total amount of air pollutants come from vehicle emissions.
An emission monitoring device placed in an official vehicle parked near Xi Zhimen intersection, one of Beijing's busiest junctions, caught three vehicles with higher than average emissions only within half an hour.
"We will eliminate 2,580 old buses and 5,000 old taxis this year to better the management of vehicles from the perspective of environmental protection," the vice mayor continued, adding 300,000 "yellow label vehicles" or public service vehicles, whose emissions make up half of the total air pollution volume, will be taken off the roads.
The vice mayor added they will urge petrol stations around the city to improve their facilities to recycle oil and gas that is emitted into the air when people fill their cars with petrol. Ji explained the gas create bromine water, one of the air pollutants. He did not clearly explain how the recycling would work.
Eighty percent of the three million vehicles in Beijing are privately owned, with about 1,000 new cars entering the roads everyday.
"It is the result of the city's booming economy," Ji said. "It is a common problem for many other big cities home and abroad, and we need to exchange our experiences in tackling the problem."
According to the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communication, public transit consists of 30.2 percent of the total traffic flow, while private car transport is nearly the same at 29.8 percent.
In New York City, public transportation accommodates 76 percent of the total traffic flow, and 91 percent in Tokyo, 40 percent in London, and 70 percent in Paris.
But Ji denied any kind of restrictions on the number of private cars on Beijing's roads. Instead, the government will accelerate the improvements in the public transportation system to attract more people onto bus and the subway network.
"What we should do is to mark off exclusive lanes for buses and lower fares to attract more people onto the buses - to make them believe they would travel as fast and as comfortable as they would in private cars," the vice mayor told Chinadaily.com.cn. He added new subway lines opening later this year would divert more passengers underground.
Beijing staged a rehearsal to make traffic as smooth as possible for the Olympics when the Sino-African summit was held last November. Eighty percent of company- or government-owned cars were banned from the roads to make way for the summit, creating clearer streets and clearer skies.
Private cars were not forced to off the roads during the summit. But some non-official auto clubs and environmental protection organizations took initiatives to encourage their members and people not to drive.
"We will draw experience from former Olympic host cities and learn from our own past practices to stage smooth traffic and blue skies for the Games," Ji said.
(China Daily June 1, 2007)