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New rules fail to prevent traffic jams

THE morning rush hour in Beijing was about as bad as usual yesterday, despite new rules meant to take 20 percent of the vehicles off the roads, city officials said.

There was serious congestion on parts of the Second and Third Ring roads from about 7am to 10:30am, according to the Beijing Transport Administration Bureau.

The new rules bar use of vehicles on weekdays from 7am to 9pm according to the final digits of their license plates. Two numbers are affected each day - yesterday the numbers were 0 and 5.

Compared with the previous post-Olympics controls, the new limits last one hour less and cover a slightly smaller area that excludes the Fifth Ring Road, one of six that encircle the capital.

The off-days are the same for 13 weeks in a row, compared with four weeks previously. The new rotation was designed to reduce confusion.

The restrictions, which are meant to take 20 percent of the city's 3.61 million vehicles off the roads each weekday, end on April 10, 2010.

During the Olympics and Paralympics last year, Beijing limited the use of most vehicles through an odd-even license plate system. The initiative took 45 percent of cars off the roads and helped clear the skies, but as soon as the ban was lifted in September, traffic jams resumed.

Figures released by the Beijing Transportation Research Center last week showed that traffic jams had been reduced by five hours and 15 minutes a day during the six months since the post-Olympics restrictions took effect.

Vehicular emissions were reduced by 10 percent a day.

About 90 percent of city residents said they supported the restrictions and 89 percent said they were willing to see the rules extended.

But despite seemingly widespread support for the vehicle restrictions, they remain controversial.

"To impose the limits will to some degree help ease traffic jams and reduce air pollution, but could other measures like the lifting of parking fees be more scientific and efficient?" said one driver.

However, another said: "To divert vehicles by time spans can reduce congestion in rush hours."


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