Beijing’s car salesmen had reason to celebrate at the end of 2010. In November, the city’s car sales volume reached 95,100, an increase of 33 percent over October. The huge jump had a simple cause: As of 2011, Beijing car buyers must draw lots to obtain a license plate, with only 240,000 available for the whole year. On December 23 alone, the day the measure was announced, over 20,000 new cars were sold in the city.
Beijing’s morning and evening rush hour traffic jams may be enough to shock many first-time visitors. Covering a distance of 30 kilometers from the suburbs to downtown can consistently take three hours. And on the worst days, a three and a half hour commute isn’t out of the question.
Traffic moving from the suburbs to downtown is often horrific, but within downtown areas, it can be just as stomach-turning. The Military Museum Station of Subway Line 1 is located at one of the capital’s core areas, and is the nearest metro station to the Beijing West Railway Station. The short two-kilometer trip from the subway to the train station can be torturous for some. Due to oft-gridlocked streets and a shortage of public transportation, some passengers are forced to use unlicensed motorcycles or taxis, or even resort to walking. According to China Newsweek, nearly every departing train is missing at least a couple of ticket-holders who failed to arrive on time.
Beijing residents have adapted to the challenge. Crowded subways, buses, and clogged ring roads are not surprises to modern Beijingers, who almost expect to find a traffic jam on any trip. And efforts by municipal officials over the decade have no chance of fixing the situation, but rather delaying total saturation of Beijing’s roadways.
“Beijing’s traffic congestion demonstrates that the city’s roads and vehicular infrastructure can no longer meet the demands of population and automobile growth,” remarks Wang Limei, secretary-general of China Road Transport Association.