Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gridlock gone as 1m cars are grounded

This is an article from The Straits times, August 18.

Not long ago, we were on the topic of urbanisation, its problems and solutions for geography, and as a geography student, I am very aware and concerned about topics that are closely related to the subject. Last friday, Beijing carried out an experiment, which aims to solve traffic problems and ease the flow of traffic. By grounding three million cars, the roads were significantly less congested. It was also said that a 48km drive around the city's busy road took half the time taken during a normal rush hour. Policemen were out to enforce these rules.

To me, this is really a great solution for a country with frequent road problems. In geography we learnt that as a city urbanises, one major problem would be the traffic and the number of vehicles on the roads. As more and more people get higher paying jobs in the city, they will be able to afford private cars and some will rather need these private cars to get around the city even faster to save them more travelling time therefore more work time. Public transport might be deemed as 'slow', 'uncomfortable' and even 'expensive', although i do not really know much about the price and efficiency of the public transport service at Beijing. In the article, it states that 'an estimated 1000 new cars get on Beijing's road each day', which proves my explanation.

With increasing traffic, pollution problems start to creep into the country. It is said that the purpose of this 'experiment' is to improve the air quality of Beijing for next year's Olympic games, and pollution monitoring stations set up around the country estimates that this car ban will reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent, which is a significant amount in such a big city. These pollution problems are something Beijing cannot just turn a blind eye on -- visiting foreign athletes and International Olympic Committee officials could shorten their stays and reschedule Olympic events if these problems persist.

Although this 'solution' really eased the traffic, I do not think that it is a long term solution for the problems they are facing, be it air pollution or traffic jams. Although Singapore is very small as compared to Beijing, many people here are choosing to travel with private transport than public ones. And how much less if it is in Beijing? Therefore, I think that although urbanisation has brought many of us advantages, we will also have to face the consequences.

However, is this ban of cutting down traffic to reduce air pollution for the good of the environment? Or is it only to groom the country in order to be able to host the other countries during the Olympics the coming year? Will these traffic problems and air pollution return soon after the Olympics? I feel that cities which have major traffic problems which cause air pollution -- not only Beijing -- should do something about it too.

(499 words)

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