The Chinese capital, notorious for its constant traffic congestion, is considering whether to charge tolls at areas usually crammed with cars.
It means that people would have to make a detour if they are not willing to pay fees to drive in congested roads.
This idea has been written into a draft report on the Essentials of Traffic Development of Beijing which is currently under deliberation.
However, the Municipal Communications Commission, that is in charge of drawing up the document, cautiously said this measure would only be put into operation after soliciting opinions from various fields.
The Essentials of Traffic Development of Beijing is a guideline for policy-makers planning the city's traffic network in the next 20 years, said the commission.
The document, also dubbed the White Paper of Traffic for Beijing, will be released to the public this year.
The draft shows Beijing will invest some 200-250 billion yuan (US$24-30 billion) between 2003 and 2010 in traffic construction and administration, a large part of which will be used in the construction of a public transit network.
Meanwhile, several huge free parking lots beyond the Fourth and Fifth ring roads will be built to encourage more private car owners in the suburbs to take buses or subways to the downtown area.
The draft describes a long-term picture in 2010 in which most residents can walk to a bus or subway station in eight minutes. And people will have to walk less than 300 meters if they need to change to another bus or subway route.
The total length dedicated to special lanes for buses will be increased to 300-350 kilometers in 2010 from the current 93 kilometers, says the draft.
Liu Qin, an engineer with the Traffic Management Bureau of Beijing, said the current distribution of bus routes leaves much to be desired.
"People can hardly transfer among buses, subways and cars freely, and it is a major cause of the heavy burden on the traffic system," said Liu.
He said less than 30 per cent of Beijing residents take buses or subway to go out, while the figure is as high as 70-80 per cent in developed countries.
"Developing the public transit system is a key to solve Beijing's traffic problem," said Liu.
Besides improving the public transit network, the draft also highlights the construction of feeder roads connecting the current ring roads.
By 2010, 15 such rapid roads without traffic lights will be opened, making it much easier and faster for people to reach the downtown area from the fifth, fourth and third ring roads.
And five north-south roads will also be built by 2010 in order to ease the heavy traffic flow on ring roads.
Beijing's traffic network will be able to handle 50 per cent more cars by 2010 from the current level. By then it should be able to meet the demands of 3.8 million automobiles at that time, says the draft.
(China Daily April 7, 2004)