The best strategy, however, is to not build more roads, because road maintenance cost remains high and new roads spur people’s desire to drive. Beijing spends huge amounts each year to improve its transport infrastructure, and before the introduction of the odd-even traffic rule that limits the number of cars on the roads, the annual growth rate of car use in China’s capital was much higher that most cities in the world.
No wonder the message the Beijing municipal government sent out to residents earlier was that it supported the increasing use of private vehicles when it came to the mode of transport. But the secret to building a livable city is the guarantee that the majority of citizens, including the middle class, can enjoy the same public transport service. And to achieve that, we have to raise the proportion of public transport vehicles vis-à-vis the number of private cars. Striking the right balance between the two is especially important because of the significance of automobiles to China’s tax regime.
Sustainable development demands that private cars yield place to public transport vehicles. Walking, cycling, and taking the metro of a bus should be considered a way to making urban transportation sustainable. As such, some public transport companies have jointly formed a “green transport system” to complete with cars.
The “slow” process of China’s transportation planning and public transportation system, however, can be integrated to reduce fears over individual’s personal behavior, especially because the use of public transport vehicles and bicycles is expected to surpass that of private cars.
The author is China Transport Program director at the World Resource Institute. The article is based on an interview with China Daily’s Zhang Yuchen.