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Car restrictions ease Beijing jams

FIGURES released by the Beijing Transportation Research Center yesterday showed that traffic jams were reduced by five hours and 15 minutes a day during the six months in which post-Olympics restrictions have been in effect. Vehicular emissions were reduced by 375 tons every day, or 10 percent.

BTRC statistics showed about 90 percent of city residents said they supported the restrictions and 89 percent said they were willing to see the rules extended.

"Since the car ban has significantly improved traffic conditions, I would be willing to sacrifice one day's driving for four other days of smooth traffic," said a local car owner surnamed Cui, whose license plate number means no driving on Thursdays.

New vehicle restrictions are likely to be announced today in the capital, given that a post-Olympics system has "significantly improved" traffic conditions and air quality, said Wang Zhaorong, spokesman for the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications yesterday.

The city reported an increase of 450,500 vehicles from January 2007 to February this year, said Guo Jifu, BTRC director.

"For a city like Beijing, which has a population of 16 million and more than 3.6 million vehicles, traffic restrictions and the development of public transportation should both be taken into consideration," said Xu Kangming, an urban transportation expert.

The restrictions, however, drew criticism from a number of motorists.

"Car owners, who have helped boost domestic demand, should not be held responsible for traffic problems, which the government should handle," said Beijinger Li Aijie. "We should not pay the bill."

Beijing's trial post-Olympics vehicle restrictions began on October 11 and are set to expire on April 10. The rules, based on license plate numbers, take 20 percent of the city's 3 million vehicles off the road each weekday.

The current restrictions apply within and including the Fifth Ring Road from 6am to 9pm for private cars and around the clock for government and corporate vehicles. The ban does not apply to emergency vehicles, mass transit vehicles or other public service vehicles.


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