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Growing traffic in China
Chen Jingsong
12/2/2003

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Since the late 80’s the metropolitan areas of Guangzhou and the Zhujiang Delta Region have had increasing problems with traffic congestion due to rapid economic development and the increased purchase of personal cars. Massive bridge and road construction have not mitigated the congestion.

In 2001, at the Neihuan Road Opening Ceremony, Guangzhou Mayor Lin Shusen proclaimed “From now on Guangzhou citizens can drive downtown in 20 minutes.” Of course, this statement no longer proves true. Today, many taxi drivers still actually avoid this road because of its heavy traffic congestion.

Aside from the increase in privately owned cars, congestion is amplified by those who ignore traffic rules. Aggressive drivers speed, weave through traffic and run red lights.

The Shanghai Municipal Government has attempted to regulate traffic in the tunnel that connects the Huangpu River banks to Yanan East Road for taxicabs during peak commuting periods. But taxi drivers ignore the rules, which makes the situation worse.

What will it take to solve the traffic congestion in metropolitan areas? Many people claim it has to do with the popularity of owning a personal car. From the most affluent to the middle-class of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou—all take pride in owning cars.

Currently auto, real estate and steel are among the hottest job markets in China. According to the National Information Center, passenger vehicles comprise 2.75 million or half of the vehicles produced for domestic consumption and by 2005 the number is expected to increase to 10 million vehicles. Toyota plans to follow Honda and Nissan, two major Japanese-car manufacturers, to establish production facilities in Guangzhou. High market demand, huge profits for car manufacturers, and the increased availability of auto loans have led to a wave of auto purchasing.

In Guangzhou, since the beginning of this year, the number of privately-owned cars registered monthly has hovered around 6,000 to 7,000. In order to boost the economy, the Municipal secretary, Lin Shusen, promised not to regulate the purchase of private cars.

Government statistics from September show that Shanghai had a total 1.7 million vehicles and 9 million bicycles on the roads. Experts say that Shanghai has no space to build more highways; the most the city can do is to widen existing roads. However, it is questionable whether widening the roads and adding more lanes would effectively eliminate congestion. Statistics show that in the last ten years, Shanghai’s road capacity increased by 1.2 times (representing a combination of new roads and the addition of new lanes to existing roads) while the number of cars went increased fivefold.

Three years ago I wrote many articles warning the public about a probable future transportation catastrophe. Even back then it was apparent that China was overpopulated and that people should be discouraged from buying private cars. I also recommended then that China should imitate Japan by providing public commuter service and restricting personal transportation.

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