cutting traffic

September 28th, 2008

On the way out of the xiaomaibu this afternoon I saw a big, black, bold headline on the front page of the 法制晚报:

下月11 日起五环内试限行

Traffic restrictions to be tried within the Fifth Ring from the 11 of next month

Now that would seem to be good news. The devil, of course, is in the detail, so I guess I’d better actually read the article.

市政府发布通告 10月11日至明年4月10日实施交通管理措施

Municipal government has issued a notice: From 11 November to 10 April next year traffic management measures to be adopted

So far so good.

Trouble is there’s a red notice:


Oh, so I guess I can’t do my usual copy-and-translate. 法晚很生气,后果很严重. Guess I’ll just have to read through then summarise it here. Anyways, from 11 October there’s going to be new trial traffic restrictions. First up, there’re going to have different times for starting and ending the work day so as to spread out morning and evening traffic, thereby hopefully evening out the morning and evening peak traffic. Makes sense. 京报网 also has a report on that here. Then there’s a rather ominous-sounding phrase about how yellow-sticker (heavily polluting) vehicles will have to be eliminated or updated by October 1 next year. Then there will be traffic restrictions once again based on the final digit of car license plates- but not the simple odds/evens rule we had over the Olympics. It’s a little more complex this time.

Alright, the details are a little much for me to take in all at once, so I’ll copy fazhi wanbao and go step by step:

Well, there is much preamble, but as it turns out the experimental traffic restrictions actually start 10 days earlier than the headline suggests:

Step 1: Public service vehicles, i.e. those vehicles belonging to government and party departments, and apparently work units under government departments and state owned enterprises. From October 1 these vehicles will be subject to traffic restrictions based on the last digit of their license plate, except on public holidays and ‘public rest days’ (weekends, in other words, or those days weekends have been swapped with to make up for Golden Week holidays). Ummm…. so these restrictions begin on a public holiday, meaning public servants have 3, if not 5 days grace to drive their official cars at will before the restrictions actually bite? Anyway, key point: These restrictions apply 24 hours per day. The article actually says from 0:00 to 24:00.

Step 2: Private cars. Private cars with Beijing plates and those from other provinces/autonomous regions/municipalities in Beijing long term will face similar restrictions within the Fifth Ring Road based on the last digit of their license plate. Key point of difference is that these vehicles are only restricted from 6 am to 9 pm, and that they get a discount on what I believe would translate into a Kiwi context as road user charges and registration fees- except that so far as I can tell (I’ve never owned anything with an internal combustion engine in my life) such charges apply to all vehicles here, whereas road user charges apply only to diesels in NZ. But the translation of those car-owning expenses is beside the point: In return for accepting these restrictions, drivers save a little on those myriad costs involved in owning a car. Also, the restrictions do not apply to vehicles from outside Beijing in the city for short periods or passing through Beijing on their way to somewhere else.

Note: This section clearly says within the Fifth Ring Road. I did not see that phrase in the ‘public service vehicles’ section.

I guess what confuses me is how they’re going to tell the difference between non-Beijing vehicles here for long and short periods. Maybe that’s stamped on that 进京证 (enter the capital certificate) outside vehicles need to drive in Beijing? Or is that document only necessary for those in Beijing long term? And if so, how is that rule enforced? Oh well, that’s the police’s job, I guess they already know how to enforce that, considering how long the 进京证 has been necessary.

Oh, and for those that don’t know: Chinese license plates mark clearly which province/autonomous region/municipality a vehicle is registered in (except military vehicles).

So these restrictions are based on the last digit of the license plate and run on a rotating basis something along these lines:

  1. On Mondays cars with plates ending in 1 and 6 stay at home
  2. Tuesdays it’s 2 and 7
  3. Wednesdays it’s 3 and 8
  4. Thursdays it’s 4 and 9
  5. Fridays it’s 5 and 0
  6. “English letters” = 0

And of course there are exceptions for the emergency services (fire, police, ambulance) public transport (domestic Beijing buses and trolley buses, inter-provincial long distance buses and taxis (excluding rental cars)), company cars, school vehicles and those with diplomatic plates, and a couple of classes of vehicles in Beijing temporarily that I can’t quite figure out.

Step 3: Yellow-sticker, heavily polluting vehicles. From October 1 next year they won’t be allowed within the Sixth Ring Road. Actually, I’m not sure I can figure out how they’re going to progressively crack down on such vehicles, but it’s not just a “keep them out of the 6th Ring from October 1 next year” thing, they’re going to be working on eliminating or updating such vehicles in the intervening period, with ever tighter restrictions as time goes on.

Step 4: From October 11 the times for starting and stopping work will be staggered so as to even out the morning and evening traffic peaks. Actually, I think 京报网 does this better, but even so I’m struggling to figure out the differences between each kind of work unit. So far as I can tell, though, central and municipal government and party organisations and schools don’t change. Large shopping centres will open at 10 am. Other work units and social organisation will split between opening times of 8:30, 9:00 and 9:30, and close 8 hours later.

There’s more to it than that, but to be honest, I’m getting too tired to sort it all out, and it doesn’t particularly bother me because those affected by the changes will be told the new times they start and stop work each day, I’m sure.

2 Responses to “cutting traffic”

  1. China Journal : Best of the China Blogs: September 29 Says:

    […] holiday calculations are Beijing’s post-Olympics traffic management rules. Here’s a valiant attempt at sorting out the sixes and sevens. [bezdomny ex […]

  2. The Week that Was Says:

    […] try to “to cut gridlock and improve air quality.”  The restrictions appear hopelessly complex (cars with license numbers that end in 5 can’t drive on days when Jupiter aligns with Mars, […]