Beijing ponders surcharge to stop its worsening traffic

By Wang Nan Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-22 0:38:01

Traffic in Beijing has worsened in the first six months of this year, prompting the government to consider launching a new program that charges drivers extra congestion fees, the Beijing Times reported.

Wen Huimin, deputy director of the Beijing Transportation Research Center, said during an interview with the Beijing government's official website on Tuesday that the traffic congestion index (TCI) has risen to 5.0, 6.4 percent higher than the data from last year.

TCI is the digitized state of traffic congestion. The larger the index goes, the more severe traffic congestion has become.

Wen estimated the average time a Beijing driver is stuck in traffic during weekdays is around 100 minutes, 30 minutes more than last year. Wen believes that the increasing number of vehicles in Beijing has contributed to the worsened traffic situation this year.

The government is mulling over charging congestion fees to drivers in order to solve the problem of traffic jams, Wen said, adding that such a program could be extremely complicated and the government has not yet made their decision.

"We are doing extensive research on how to charge the congestion fee," said Wen. "Questions such as how to divert traffic and how to manage the transportation needs of residents in the congested areas require systematic study."

However, other analysts were concerned by the surcharge.

"The congestion fees will not solve the problem for good and this is a costly project. It requires more facilities and human input, which will in turn increase the congestion. Maximizing existing traffic resources should be the most urgent measure to alleviate congestion," said Niu Fengrui, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Traffic congestion is just one problem that happens during the process of a mega-city's development. The city has grown too big with too many government facilities. Some of its resources should be transferred to other cities," Niu told the Global Times.

 The Beijing Traffic Management Bureau will soon step up punishment on vehicles registered outside Beijing, as many local drivers have sought license plates elsewhere after authorities tightened the control on the number of the vehicles in the city, The Beijing News reported on August 13.

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