Beijing’s car plate policies

By Pearl Chen Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/17 17:13:39

Starting from April 9, the city's stringent traffic restriction policy that is based on the last digit of a car plate, operating in quarterly cycles, officially enters its ninth year of existence.

Through nearly a decade of the fight against traffic congestion and air pollution, Beijingers have come to terms with the quarterly cycles of car plate-based restrictions. The policy requires automobiles with end numbers 1 or 6, 2 or 7, 3 or 8, 4 or 9 and 5 or 0 respectively from Monday to Friday to refrain from driving. The specific days of road restrictions changes on a quarterly basis, sometimes leading to some minor confusion and fines incurred by car owners.

In a huge city with so many cars, I'd say the overall implementation of the restrictions has been a huge success. According to the Ministry of Transport's report, by the third quarter of 2017, the national capital is the third most congested city in China. However, before 2017, Beijing was the most congested city according to the statistics.

As of now, it is likely that the car plate road restriction policy will continue in Beijing well into the future. Beijing has launched the "I volunteer to reduce car driving by an additional day" WeChat account, which offers small-amount, nominal monetary compensation for any car owners who volunteer not to drive their cars even when they are not restricted. Though it is just a small-scale pilot, the innovation indicates the goodwill of city planners dedicated to fighting against congestion and pollution.

Of course, when it comes to policy design, there still remains key debates as to the best way to regulate traffic in the city.

The car plate road restriction is gradually being accepted by more people, but the policies related to purchasing a passenger car are still the major concerns of potential car buyers, which even gives rise to potential rent-seeking behaviors by unscrupulous officials.

Unlike Shanghai, that sets up an auction system for potential car owners to purchase a license plate, Beijing opts for a quota system to distribute available plate numbers, equivalent to a lottery. As the long waiting queue of potential car owners only gets longer over time, the debate is whether Beijing should just adopt the auction policy to satisfy those in urgent need of owning a car.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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