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April 16, 2014

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Car parking charges in downtown set to rise to help fight congestion

THE city government plans to increase car parking charges in downtown areas as part of a wider plan to ease traffic congestion, a senior official said yesterday.

“There are just too few parking spaces downtown,” said Sun Jianping, head of the Shanghai Transport Commission.

“In some areas we’ve even started using roads for overnight parking,” he said.

Currently, the cost of parking downtown is 15 yuan (US$2.40) for the first hour and 10 yuan for every additional 30 minutes. In other areas within the Inner Ring Road, the corresponding fees are 10 yuan and 6 yuan.

Sun did not say what the new charges would be or when they would be introduced.

In the future, the size and number of parking lots built in Shanghai will be determined by the population density, Sun said.

All new residential and commercial projects will be required to factor in sufficient parking, and developers who build more than they are required to will enjoy beneficial policies, he said.

The city last month released its second traffic white paper, which is designed to provide direction and guidance for traffic management officials over the next decade.

One of the key elements of the document is that the government is putting more emphasis on traffic management and less on the construction of buildings, Sun said.

“The idea is to develop public transport first, and then build residential areas around that,” he said.

The promotion of public transport and providing increased support for cyclists are fundamental to the paper. Its goal for the 10-year period is to have cyclists, pedestrians, and Metro and bus users account for 80 percent of all journeys made in the city.

To help achieve that target, the document openly discourages the use of private cars. It even suggests the introduction of expiry dates for license plates and tighter restrictions on plate transfers.

“A group of experts is currently studying the practicality of such plans. Though before any policies are agreed there will be a lot of consultation and hearings,” Sun said.

“Private plates are currently not subject to expiration, but if they were, their value would drop sharply,” he said.

The city’s traffic authority has set a target to keep the number of registered cars in central Shanghai below 2.5 million. The total is currently more than 2.1 million, of which 1.8 million are private vehicles.

“The number of cars is one aspect. The other is how to encourage people to use public transport,” Sun said.

“For people to stop using their cars, the alternatives have to be more attractive,” he said.

Public transport is used for about 43 percent of all journeys made in the downtown. The target is to increase that to 50 percent by the end of next year and to 60 percent by the year of 2017, Sun said.

“The government has achieved its goal to have a Metro station or bus stop within 300 meters of every residential building,” he said.

To promote the use of environment-friendly electric cars, the government plans to open 5,000 charging stations and top-up spots around the city by the end of next year.

Sun said he is keen to have electric vehicles used as taxis, as soon as is practical.

“But to be able to function as a taxi, an electric car must be able to travel at least 300 kilometers per day,” he said.

On the subject of license plate auctions, Sun advised people against using bidding agents.

“The number of bidders has doubled this year, but there is no guarantee that those people who use an agent, some of whom charge up to 5,000 yuan per sale, have a better chance of winning,” he said.


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