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Beijing Ready for Olympics Traffic, Official Says

Beijing will rely mainly on its expanded public transportation network, instead of forcing vehicles off the roads, to cope with busy Olympic traffic, a senior municipal transportation official told Xinhua in an interview.

"Beijing's public transportation system, including buses, subways and taxis, will have an increased capacity to take an additional 4.5 million passengers daily by the time the Games is held," said Liu Xiaoming, head of the Municipal Communication Commission.

He said that this means that the normal vehicular volume will only need to be reduced by 20 percent to 30 percent to allow smooth traffic flows during the Games, which start 50 days from Thursday.

"Restrictions during the Games will mainly target government- and company-owned vehicles," said Liu.

He did not say whether private vehicles would have to follow the same license plate system used in a simulated Olympic traffic control exercise last August. That trial took 1.3 million of the city's total 3.05 million vehicles off the roads.

During the trial, 70 percent of government- and company-owned vehicles were ordered off the roads, and private cars had to follow an even-odd license plate number system.

Beijing is gearing up to provide swift transportation for 8 million athletes, media people and spectators from around the world during the Games.

Liu said that by the time the Games start on Aug. 8, Beijing will have 2,000 more buses, meaning room for 2.8 million more passengers daily.

The opening of several new subway lines and increased subway frequency will enable the rail system to handle 1.1 million extra passengers a day, he said.

"The system's maximum passenger handling volume is expected to reach 5 million a day during the Games, up from the current level of about 4 million passengers a day," he explained.

According to the official website of the Games preparatory committee,, Beijing will open 34 new bus routes connecting the city with each of the Olympic competition venues. Olympic ticket holders may ride certain buses and subway lines for free.

"Nineteen of the bus routes will be non-stop at night, and we know that 40 percent of Beijing's 66,000 cabs will have drivers working at night. These together will cater to the Games attendees' night transportation needs," said Liu.

Beijing spent almost half of its transportation infrastructure budget on its bus system ahead of the Olympics to avoid becoming a giant parking lot during the event, according to the commission.

"Our confidence in coping with the Olympic traffic comes from early preparations to improve the public transportation system, which has been designated as a priority since 2001," he said.

He said the current number of vehicles on roads was nearly double the 2004 level. However, rather than getting worse, in some areas, traffic has gotten better.

A unified bus fare of 1 yuan (13 US cents) was adopted in Beijing on 1 Jan. 2007, and transit cardholders received another 60 to 80 percent discount, which attracted more people to use public transport.

(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2008)

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