China Watch Blog has learnt that Beijing’s traffic problems seem to be worsening, and last week, it took taxi driver Liu Chunwang two hours to drive his passenger 4 miles (7 kilometers).
“I’ve never experienced a worse situation,” the 28-year-old Liu, who has been navigating the Chinese capital’s roads for four years, was quoted as saying in a China Post report. “It was such a short distance but there was nothing I could do.”
Traffic congestion is nothing new to this metropolis of more than 17 million people but, in recent months, the gridlock seems to be reaching new highs, as surging auto sales put more cars on Beijing’s streets. A bout of heavy rain left the city virtually paralyzed recently, with more than 140 bottlenecks reported.
An average of 1,900 new cars has been sold every day this year, bringing the number of vehicles in Beijing to 4.5 million as of July. At the current rate, the Beijing Transportation Research Center estimates that car ownership will reach 7 million by 2015, which it says would bring average driving speeds in the city to a crawl of 9 miles (15 kilometers) per hour.
“As China’s economy and the urbanization process developed rapidly, traffic jams in metropolitan areas were bound to happen,” said Guo Jifu, head of the research center, noting that Beijing’s population is growing by half a million people a year.
Beijing added 415,000 vehicles last year and is on track to add more than 600,000 this year — an amount equal to the total number of vehicles in Hong Kong, Guo said.
“In Beijing, the number of cars that families own, the growth rate of car ownership and the intensity of the usage of cars are all higher than those of foreign cities such as New York and Tokyo,” he said. “When the traffic load reaches a certain level, a light disruption like an accident could destabilize the system and amplify the disruptive effect.”
The city is currently in the midst of one disruption with another one coming up: the three-day Mid-Autumn festival began on Wednesday, and it will be followed by the weeklong National Day holiday starting Oct. 1.
The warnings were dire ahead of this week’s holiday: Traffic police said roads would be clogged for at least seven hours, starting at 3 p.m. Then came word that rush hour had begun at 1 p.m. as motorists left work early to get a jump on the traffic.
China’s traffic woes came to international attention last month with a monster traffic jam that lasted 10 days and extended along a major highway for 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the outskirts of Beijing.If you think China Watch Blog's information is useful, click on cup of coffee on left hand side and make a small contribution via PayPal