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Beijing Vehicle Population Soaring; City Government Ramping Up Spending on Public Transit

Xinhua. Beijing registered a record 22,079 new motor vehicles in the first 18 days of 2007. City planners expect the total number of cars, trucks and buses to pass three million by May and to top 3.3 million by the time the Beijing Olympic Games are held in 2008.

There are now 2.88 million motor vehicles in Beijing, including 2.06 million private vehicles. The number of people with driver’s licenses now exceeds 4.24 million.

“Private car owners in the capital use their cars four times more frequently than private car owners in Tokyo,” an expert said, blaming the high use of private cars for road congestion and serious air pollution in Beijing.

Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan is embarking on a major campaign to make public transit a primary mode of travel in the city:

  • The municipal government plans to spend 4.98 billion yuan ($641 million) to develop public transport this year, an increase of 1.31 billion yuan (US$169 million) from last year.

  • Separately, the city government will spend 11.67 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) this year to improve the public transport infrastructure.

  • The city has also pledged to spend 100 billion yuan (US$12.9 billion) more in coming years on public transportation.

  • The city’s subway and light rail systems will be extended to 273 km in 2010 and to 568 km in 2015.


Rafael Seidl

There are at least 15 other cities in China that are currently investing heavily in public transportation systems to curb congestion and pollution from the exploding LDV fleet. Considering that these cities grew mostly at a time when cars were still few and far between, population densities make mass transit viable.

Nevertheless, as many European cities can attest, adding a subway system to an existing city is quite expensive because you have to work around all the pipes etc. that are already in the ground. Planning permits will probably not be as much of an issue in China, since it's a dictatorship, but still.

One thing China could learn from the OECD nations is that it pays to integrate individual mass transit systems into a network. This includes the location of bus/tram/subway stops, short wait times and a single ticket for the entire trip. It also pays to integrate with taxi services and, to permit the transportation of (collapsible) bicycles on trains.

Most - not all - cities in China can still avoid traffic hell if they invest in mass transit and dedicated bus/bicycle lanes proactively, in addition to providing incentives favoring telecommuting and electric bicycles in favor of full-fledged personal motor vehicles. The OECD experience is that as soon as someone owns a car, it is virtually impossible to get them to use any other mode of ground transportation.


Uf you look at china now they have massive roadways set up to allow huge amounts of materials and gooods to be moved about and of course for all the people to get about as they now have huge numbers of people wanting to go places and shop. If they are lucky they might deelope a good solid personal rapid transt system before anyone else does.


China started their development process with a country that largely got around by bicycle. They chose to emulate the west by centering their development around the auto. Now the obvious has occurred; their cities are unbearable and unlivable. And now they are going to tack on mass transit. The key would have been for people to not get cars in the first place. And now they, and the rest of the world, are paying the piper.

This doesn't let the west, especially the U.S., off the hook. But still, China had a chance to do it right from the ground up. The western model is unsustainable and we have this constant battle to get people out of their cars. Short of making driving completely unbearable and impossibly expensive, we have not found a way.


No the went the us way because it WORKS for a contry of that size.

In order to get the internal economy going strong one needs people to move around and vacation and shop and such.. Cars do that.

And just as the original planners of the us road system ecpected that sooner or later cleaner cars would have to be deveolped to keep cities livable so did china. They just grew to fast.

Jo in Beijing

The subway system will not just be enlarged but in 5 years or so become the world's biggest.

Cars are still a novelty for many which is why they are bought even when not very practical.

The situation is sure to improve, but it will take a few years.

Cheap Flight to Beijing

“ I’ m very sorry for the Chinese people who have to live in unhealthy environmental conditions,” Idem told Reuters. “ If it has an effect on the sporting field, it will be the same for all of the athletes.” This pragmatic view is echoed by some Beijing residents.

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