Beijing plans to build huge free or low-cost parking lots beyond the fourth and fifth ring roads to encourage more car owners to take buses or subways to the downtown area, said a senior traffic official.
The plan is just one of the multiple measures the city plans to take to ease its notorious traffic congestions as the 2008 Summer Olympic Games draw near.
Liu Xiaoming, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Communications Commission, said his commission is considering building a first lot at Sihui, an area at the intersection of the Fourth Ring Road and Chang'an Avenue in eastern Beijing. More such parking lots will be built in the near future.
Low or nonexistent parking fees would be used as economic leverage to ease growing parking demands from urban areas, said Liu.
Car owners living in the suburbs will be encouraged to park their cars beyond the Fourth and Fifth ring roads and take buses or subways downtown, he explained.
Statistics show that nearly one quarter of the city's traffic flow is concentrated in the 62-square-kilometer downtown area within the Second Ring Road, which makes up only 12 percent of the city's total area.
The Beijing Traffic Management Bureau, receives between 400 and 500 calls reporting traffic jams every day and more than 90 percent of the roads are filled to capacity during rush hour every morning and evening.
Part of the problem is the lack of easy links between bus routes, subways and cars, said Liu. He blamed the problem on the improper distribution of bus routes.
"Developing an efficient public transit system is a key to solving Beijing's traffic problem," said Liu.
According to the communication commission, half of the city's investment in transportation will go towards public transit construction in the next few years, marking a jump from the current only 20 percent.
Moreover, Beijing plans to readjust its layout by building new city centers, such as at Yizhuang, Tongzhou, Shunyi and Changping, in a bid to ease the traffic flow to the downtown, said Liu.
The current layout of Beijing -- expanded ring roads around the same centre of the Forbidden City, is seen as the root cause of the endless traffic jams.
The downtown area is crowded with three business centers and one financial centre, as well as nearly 400 government organs and institutions.
Traffic experts say building more urban centers around Beijing may reduce the number of residents living in the suburbs and traveling long distances to work downtown every day, thus reducing traffic flows.
(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2004)