Beijing vows to get more people on public transport

By: Graham Gardiner

Beijing will extend its 12 light-rail and subway lines and open more express bus lanes in 2010 in order to

Beijing will extend its 12 light-rail and subway lines and open more express bus lanes in 2010 in order to get more people out of their cars and on to public transport, says Mayor Guo Jinlong.

"Our target is to increase the city's public transport rate to 40 percent this year," he is reported to have said, while delivering the government's work report to the city's annual legislative session, which opened on Monday.

The rate measures the proportion of local residents using public transport for their daily commute, and was above 70 percent in big cities around the world, says Duan Liren, a communications expert and former deputy head of the municipal communications commission.

Duan says the city government had hoped to reach the 40-percent goal in 2005. However, private car ownership had increased beyond government expectations. The public transport rate plummeted from 35 percent to 26.3 percent in 2004, and slowly climbed up to 38.9 percent in 2009.

Liu Xiaoming, director of the commissions, says the city government has approved a budget of 80 billion yuan (US$11.7 billion) for the construction of public transport facilities this year.

According to the commission, the length of rail lines in Beijing will be extended by 140 km this year to 368 km, and reach 561 km in 2015.

Beijing's express bus lanes exceeded 300 km in total length, but he did not give the exact figure on the number of lanes that the commission planned to open this year.

He says 800,000 extra vehicles came on to Beijing roads in 2009. The total number had hit 4 million, of which more than 80 percent are privately owned.

"Beijing has prolonged the transport measures from the 2008 Olympic Games to restrict the road traffic by the last number of the car license plate. However, the effect has been overshadowed by the fast increase of vehicles on road," says vice mayor Huang Wei.

He says traffic controls helped keep about 800,000 cars off the roads each weekday.

"The government is soliciting public opinions on whether to continue the odd-even license plate system after the provisional control measure ends in April this year," he says.

According to the commission, 45 percent of Beijingers will use public transport, 22 percent cars, 8 percent taxis, and 23 percent bicycles by 2015 to travel to work.

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