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Shenzhen to issue only 100K new license plates per year in effort to combat congestion and pollution

On 30 December, the city government of Shenzhen, China announced that it will only issue 100,000 license plates per year via lotteries and auctions, with immediate effect, to fight congestion and pollution. Shenzhen, a major high-tech and manufacturing hub in southern China’s Guangdong province, is located just north of Hong Kong and is the home of BYD as well as the Denza joint venture of BYD and Daimler. By the end of 2013, it had 10.63 million permanent residents. (For comparison, New York City in 2013 had a population of 8.4 million.)

The city will issue 60,000 plates via lottery, including 20,000 for electric vehicles and the remainder for conventional cars. The remaining 40,000 plates for conventional cars will be auctioned.

Other major Chinese cities that restrict vehicle registration include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Guiyang, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin and Hangzhou. Beijing and Guiyang issue plates through lotteries while Shanghai uses a bidding scheme. Tianjin and Guangzhou have a hybrid system.

The number of registered vehicles in Shenzhen has reached 3.14 million. The city has recorded a 16% average annual increase of registered vehicles over the past five years and in 2014 alone, 550,000 vehicles were registered, a 20.9% increase from 2013.

The number of vehicles has created severe traffic congestion and parking space shortages in the city, where drivers have to compete for the existing 1.04 million parking spots. The vehicle parc has contributed to the city’s deteriorating air quality, as exhaust from automobiles was responsible for 41% of smog, according to official statistics, causing the city’s PM2.5 index to exceed a safe limit.

(As another measure, Shenzhen will now fine drivers who cause accidents or congestion because of illegal parking 2,000 yuan (US$322); those who illegally park their vehicles in restricted areas, sidewalks, entrances or exits to housing estates, intersections or at bus stops will be fined 1,000 yuan ($161); and illegal parking on the city’s 30 trunk roads will carry a fine of 500 yuan ($81).)

On top of the plate restriction, vehicles registered outside of Shenzhen will now be banned from running in Futian, Luohu, Nanshan and Yantian districts during rush hour—from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on workdays—except on designated roads leading to the checkpoints in the four districts. This restriction doesn’t apply during weekends and holidays.

Emergency vehicles, such as fire engines, military vehicles and police cars, as well as vehicles with dual license plates for Hong Kong and Macao, are not subject to the limitation.

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