Beijing pulls cars off streets

In Beijing this morning, there were fewer cars in the city during rush hours and office workers who rode in shuttle buses arrived in offices much earlier than usual, state media reports.

Beijing began a four-day experiment on Friday morning to test whether pulling 1.3 million cars off the city’s roads has an effect on reducing air pollution ahead of next year’s summer Olympics.

Chinese state media quoted a spokesman with Beijing Public Transport saying that the introduction of the alternate-day practice has already cleared the usually-clogged city roads on Friday, and increasing the efficiency of the public buses with a 7 to 15% improvement as a result.

Beijing currently has a population of around 16 million people, and has more than three million registered vehicles with more than four million drivers.

For the test scheme, car drivers with even-numbered licence plates will face fines if they are caught driving from 6am to midnight on Friday.

Odd-numbered cars will be banned on Saturday and Monday, while vehicles with even-numbered registrations must stay off the roads on Sunday.

Liu Xiaoming, deputy director of the Municipal Transportation Commission, told state media that during the test period, 10,000 bus runs would be increased daily to help ease the pressure caused by a sudden surge of passengers, and running times would be extended for an hour.

An estimated 8.4 million people will take public transport, including buses, the subway and taxis, in the four days compared with 6.4 million on average.

The Chinese Municipal transportation committee told Xinhua that 1,600 taxis will be allocated to train stations and airports each day and more than 300 taxis will stay at more than ten venues of the “Good Luck Beijing” Olympic test event.

This test scheme comes at a time when China has been flagged by the World Health Organisation as having high environmental risks.

China is the current second largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the United States.

Dana Gornitzki

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