In China, people consider clothes, food, residence and transportation as four main aspects of daily life. And I believe transportation is significant when people think about where to live. “More than 75 percent of Chinese people surveyed said they consider traffic the most important factor in creating livable cities.”(Xinhua News Agency, 2016, July 5) I think cities that have good living conditions are livable cities. The survey revealed that a large number of people lay emphasis on traffic. So I selected how to ease traffic congestion in Beijing as my topic. Because Beijing is the capital city of China which has severe traffic congestion, and if we can solve this problem in Beijing, it would much easier to solve the problem in other cities or countries. Considering three relationships around traffic jam, I think direct causality should be explained by more cars causes traffic jam, reverse causality is traffic jam causes more cars, and confounding is transportation laws both causes the more purchase of cars and traffic jam.
The first possible solution came to my mind is improving public transportation such as bus, subway, viaducts and highway. “Beijing depends heavily on its subway to ease traffic, and will extend one existing line, start building 2 new lines, and speed up work on 16 lines under construction, with 40 lines covering a total of 609 miles planned by 2020.”(Xinhua News Agency, 2016, Feb 7) There are a great number of people take subway to go to work because it is more efficient than driving cars. So it will be very crowded in subway in rush hours. But there are some citizens cannot go to work by subway due to the limit subway lines and stations. In this way, if Beijing government plan to extend and construct more subway lines, traffic congestion might be alleviated because more people will have the option to take the subway to avoid rush hours. However, the truth is that a lot of viaducts and highways in Beijing are also faced with traffic congestion. People even joke that those are parking lot rather than viaducts and highways. “The automobiles are increasing five times faster than the streets.” (Owen, C. J., Smith, A. C., 1962, January) Because the construction of improving public transportation certainly will take a long time and the number of motor vehicles is still increasing. So this solution also has some limitations. Traffic congestion is a problem demanding prompt solutions.
The second possible solution is implementing a congestion charge. This is a solution which Beijing is going to be carried out. “The Beijing municipal government is discussing the possibility of a congestion charging regime similar to the one in London”. Congestion charge is a daily fee for driving a vehicle within the charge zone during the settled hours. It was implemented in London in order to ease traffic congestion as well as improve air quality. In London, this solution made real sense. It not only cut the pollutants produced by vehicle emissions because it almost reduced 70,000 cars a day entering central London but also improved public transport capacity and performance. And it even reduced road traffic casualties. (Qureshi, M., 2016, Jun 8) But I doubt that if this solution proper for Beijing. As we all know, the population in Beijing is much larger than London. So if we implement a congestion charge on several busy roads. It may cause the other roads which don’t have this charge crowded. In this way, it is not likely to solve traffic congestion. Moreover, “some members of 12th Beijing Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) expressed their concerns on easing the jam in the capital by charging congestion fees and limiting people’s use of private vehicles.”(China Daily, 2016, July 24)
The third possible solution is vehicles license plate number traffic restriction, which has been carried out in Beijing and some other cities in China. It is an effective solution in short run because it immediately cut down the number of vehicles driving on the road. In 2008, Beijing carried out vehicles license plate number traffic restriction in order to alleviate traffic congestion and improve air quality during Olympic Games. And in 2014, this policy turned out to be effective and the air quality became excellent during APEC meetings. And we called the rare blue sky in Beijing “APEC blue”. However, this efficient solution cannot last for a long time. If the government just limit the driving right of citizens, they may buy more cars to gain more driving time.
The forth possible solution is draw restricted purchase of motor vehicles, which is a policy in Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. When Beijing citizens want to buy a car, they need to have a license plate. They need to draw by lot to obtain the license plate which is equal to the chance to buy a car. In fact, the majority of people have to wait for a long time to buy a car. This solution control the growth rate of the number of cars. But there are some “scalpers” who sell the license plate in a high price. I believe that the government do not mean to increase the costs of buying cars. The government just want people to wait in line. But the life span of a car is much longer than the time people that waited for. In this way, the number of motor vehicles will keep increasing thus traffic congestion will be worse and worse.
The fifth possible solution is to encourage companies to change the work hours. This staggered rush hour plan was implemented in Beijing in a small range. In the morning peak and the evening peak, the average car speed is 22.61 km/h in 2015 (Xinhua Agency, 2016, Jan 21), which means that people need to spend twice as much time to go to work or go home. If some companies can delay their work hours for about one hours, their employees will get away from rush hours. They will also don’t have to suffer from the crowded subway. And there will be less cars on the road in peak hours. This solution need more time to be carried out because the government and some relevant departments need to coordinate different work hours among companies as well as the schedule of subway and bus.
I am in favor of the first solution currently. From my perspective, this solution is a long term solution that can solve traffic congestion completely. It does need a lot of time to achieve the goal, but it is not realistic to limit the right of buying and using cars for a long time. And the congestion charge seems like to restrict people using roads.
In conclusion, traffic congestion is a big question in China which need time, cost and patience to solve it. In long run view, “the municipal government shall continue to adhere to giving top priority to public transportation development” (Beijing Municipal People’s Government, 2009, April 3), such as subway and bus lines as well as viaducts and highways. If public transportation is so convenient and efficient that can cater to the fundamental purpose of driving private cars, more and more people will turn to public transportation. They even don’t have to worry about where to park their cars. And as far as I am concerned, the staggered rush hour plan should also be taken into consideration. Because it can alleviate the congestion in rush hours. While in short run, congestion charge, vehicles license plate number traffic restriction and draw restricted purchase of motor vehicles are possible solutions. The “APEC blue” evidenced that vehicles license plate number traffic restriction is effective. But APEC meetings will not hold in Beijing every day, so we should focus on the long run solutions. Maybe in twenty years, people in Beijing and even in China will not suffer from traffic congestion any more.
1. Traffic, environment biggest concerns for livable cities: survey. (2016, Jul 5). Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved from http://infoweb.newsbank.com
2. Advisers differ on solutions to reduce traffic in Beijing. (2016, July 24). China Daily. Retrieved from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn
3.Beijing Municipal People’s Government. (2009, April 3). Circular of the Beijing Municipal People’s Government on Further Implementing Traffic Management Measures. Retrieved from http://www.ebeijing.gov.cn/Elementals/Bulletin/t1124581.htm
4. Owen, C. J., Smith, A. C., (1962, January). The Transportation Dilemma of Greater Metropolitan Areas, p. 5.
5. Worsnop, R. L. (1963). Mass transit vs. private cars. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com.
6.APEC Blue http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-18/beijings-blue-sky-act-for-apec