- Published on Thursday, 22 March 2012 12:25
- Written by IVM
Analysis on Beijing’s MOTOR VEHICLE USAGE RESTRICTION Policy
Santiago de Chili, 25/01/2012
Beijing’s case is very attractive; first of all due to the gigantic proportions of the phenomena public policies must tackle. Secondly, because in the light of such a challenge the strategy is twofold: On the one hand temporary measures are taken with mandatory implementation which must be obeyed publicized through public communiqués, and on the other hand, the implementation is carried out through a trial and assessment process, both before it’s launch for the Olympics then afterwards to shift from an exceptional measure to one which is sustainable over time.
Although the comparison is quite out of proportion, it is surprising if we look a the Santiago de Chile experience, where the practical implementation of a radical change of public transport system (Transantiago), overnight, led to a big-bang with severe consequences.
A second element of surprise in the case of Beijing is the restricting of Local Government and Public Administration vehicles. Although we don’t know their share in traffic congestion, it is impressive for two reasons: it must have had some impact on public services, and this measure wasn’t only implemented during the trial period before the Olympics, but also during the sustainable phase afterwards; and finally, because of the symbolic value of demonstration and example for citizens, set by public administration behavior.
A third element of surprise is the capacity to be disciplined, and the social support given to the proposal for these measures. These seem obvious given the successful results achieved. The user surveys regarding the adoption or refusal of those measures were also very positive. Going from temporary measures to a long term strategy is also very interesting: including when there were mixed results. But, given their success during the first phases, it isn’t clear why these measures were reduced over time, when they were becoming part of everyday practices and part of a routine. It would have been interesting to find out what their impact had been on passengers.
One of the elements debated in this case study is the underlying assumption that the basic reason for traffic congestion results from a discrepancy between the growing transport demand, due to the sustained increase in cars and limited offer of infrastructure. This is due to the slow construction of roads. One of the remediation measures would be to build additional infrastructures in order to improve capacity. In the case of Chile, the same argument was used in order to justify the construction of the urban highway network, with opposite short-term results: it has increased the congestion in the city as well as the number of circulating cars.
To conclude, the need to expand the scope of the measures, ranging from urban restructuring to behavioral changes, and public transport development, is obviously relevant, but the interesting part of the Beijing proposal lies in the challenges posed by the idea of diversifying public transport modes and the environmentally conscious travel modes.