gridlocks and choking traffic fumes are the less pleasant consequences
of China's recent love affair with the automobile. With more than 1,000
new vehicles hitting the roads of Beijing each day, unpopular measures
such as road-pricing will one day be needed.
But the city authorities' most urgent concern is the poor image and
potential disruption that traffic-choked streets will create for
visitors to next year's Olympic Games. To that end, they hope to reduce traffic congestion by 20% to 30% by keeping 1m cars off the roads for the duration of the games, reports China Daily.
Some of these will be government vehicles, but to dissuade private
citizens from taking to their vehicle there will be strict parking
restrictions around the venues. In addition, competitors and their
families, volunteers, employees and spectators will be provided with
free public transport during the Games. A special bus network linking
all Olympic venues and training centres is planned.
In recent years, Beijing claims to have taken a more aggressive
approach to promote public transport. Around 13m people use its public
transport system each day, a 10% rise since 2004. That's pretty
impressive, because in most large cities in the west public transport
usage is either static or in slow but inexorable decline.
When Beijing bid for the right to hold the Olympic Games, it
promised to use a certain number of ultra-low-emission buses and taxis,
as well as some zero emission vehicles in specific areas such as the
Olympic Village. So I'm not sure if Beijing's apparent enthusiasm for
advanced public transport will be sustained once the Olympics ends.
But if Beijing is serious about finding long-term solution to
growing traffic problems, it provides a big opportunity for western
businesses, most obviously vehicle makers — more than 2,800 “greener”
buses will be purchased ahead of the Games — but also for suppliers of
advanced telematics systems to keep the traffic moving.
In the past three years, Beijing has spent 90bn yuan on transport
projects, and that will increase by 10% over the next three years,
according to the China Daily.