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New traffic ban takes 800,000 cars off Beijing roads
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The new restriction will be implemented on a trial basis for six months until April 10, but does not apply to police vehicles, ambulances, fire engines, buses, taxis and other public service vehicles.

The ban, among other measures, was imposed to help sustain the hard-won smooth traffic and good air quality during the recent Olympic Games. As of Oct. 1, 30 percent of government vehicles had been taken off the road.

Alongside the traffic bans, city authorities have also encouraged employers to adopt more elastic working hours -- even to work at home, if possible -- to ease congestion.

Downtown department stores have been advised to open at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m., as of Oct. 11 and close one hour later than before.

The new traffic restriction is expected to take some 800,000 cars off the road daily and reduce the capital's average road traffic flow by 6.5 percent and speed up traffic within the Fifth Ring by 8 percent at least, according to the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications.

Zhou Zhengyu, the committee's deputy head, said traffic authorities would improve public transport service after the new restriction was implemented. This included extending the operating hours of buses and subway trains, increasing their numbers and building more subway lines.

People get on a bus at a bus stop in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 13, 2008. [Xinhua]

People get on a bus at a bus stop in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 13, 2008. [Xinhua] 

"Currently, Beijing has 200-km subway lines. The length will be raised to 300 km by 2010, and to 561 km by 2015," he said.

The latest government statistics shows Beijing has about 3.5 million vehicles. In addition, about 1,200 new vehicles take the road each day.

During the Olympics and Paralympics, Beijing imposed a two-month ban on vehicles on alternate days, something which took nearly 2 million cars off the roads. Traffic flow within the Fifth Ring was reduced by an average 21.2 percent and the average speed at rush hours increased by 25.8 percent to 30.2 km per hour, according to the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications.

The Olympic traffic ban helped reduce almost 120,000 tons of pollutants emitted by vehicles, or about 63 percent of the total vehicular pollutant emissions before the ban.

The city returned to its normal congestion after the ban was lifted on Sept. 21.

(Xinhua News Agency October 14, 2008)

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