Car license plate limit triggers controversy in SW China city

A newly-promulgated regulation, which limits the issuance of new car license plates in a city in southwest China to ease traffic congestion, has sparked heated discussion.

Car license plate limit triggers controversy in SW China city

Since August this year, only about 2,000 car license plates will be issued to private car owners through a lottery every month, according to a statement from the government of Guiyang, capital city of the underdeveloped Guizhou Province.

In addition, an unlimited number of license plates, which exclude drivers from the prosperous old town within the city’s First Ring Road, are also available, said the statement issued about one week ago.

Under the regulation, Guiyang became the second Chinese city, following Beijing, to limit the number of new car license plates by introducing a lottery system.

Some people believe the car license plate control is a timely prescription for the city’s annoying traffic jams, while others doubt the necessity and effect of the measure, which seems overly harsh for a city that is much smaller and less developed than the national capital of Beijing.

“I think the license plate limit can prevent the number of new cars from surging rapidly, and thus ease the traffic congestion in the old town,” Peng Bing, a bank employee in Guiyang, told Xinhua.

Peng, who planned to purchase a car in half a year, said the regulation would not change his decision. “After I buy the car, I’ll still take bus to work on weekdays, but drive to suburb to spend the weekend,” he said.

Li Qian, assistant to the mayor of Guiyang, said a round of urban construction, including two light railway lines, would start soon and probably aggravate the traffic congestion in the nine-square-kilometer old town, crammed with nearly 300,000 cars.

By the end of 2010, Guiyang had 616,000 vehicles, nearly eight times as many as 10 years ago, Li said.

“I understand the government’s motive, but the public transport system has to be improved to meet citizens’ needs,” said a civil servant in Guiyang, surnamed Huo.

Huo’s opinion was echoed by Li Quling, a user of Weibo, China’s popular twitter-like microblogging site.

“The government has been promoting the use of bicycles, but it ignores to build the special lane for bicycles,” Li said in a post.

Another Weibo user, nicknamed “sillyboy9999”, warned in a post that the urban planning should be far-sighted, instead of merely relying on “limit” to make up for shortcomings of the urban planning.

Some auto insiders view the regulation as a terrible blow to the industry.

“I can’t understand that why a three-tier city, which only sells 130,000 cars a year, implements the license plate limit,” said Yang Bo, executive vice president of China Grand Auto Services Corporation in his Weibo post.

To ease traffic congestion through license plate control will not work well and the abrupt transition of the government’s policies on auto industry will hamper its healthy development, Fu Yuwu, secretary-general of the Society of Automotive Engineers of China.

“The domino effect, which I felt most worried after Beijing announced its limit of licenses plate issuance, finally occurred,” Fu said on the sidelines of the ongoing 2011 China (Changchun) Auto Forum.

In late December last year, Beijing municipal government announced that it would limit the issuance of new car license plates to 240,000 in 2011 through lotteries to relieve the city’s acute traffic congestion.

In 2010, more than 700,000 news cars were sold in Beijing, bringing the city’s total number of automobiles to more than 4.7 million.

However, according to an online poll initiated by the China Youth Daily on Friday, which has attracted more than 850 feedbacks, 29 percent of the respondents advocated Beijing and Guiyang’s measure, while 56 percent of them objected to it.

Only one fifth of the respondents believe the measure can effectively ease traffic congestion, and 77 percent of them deem the realization of the task lies in the government’s efforts to improve the public transport system.


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