字体 -



The great crawl 慢得像蜗牛在爬

The Chinese love their cars but do not want to pay more for driving them 中国人爱车可又不想为开车付出更多

Jun 18th 2016 | BEIJING | From the print edition

LATE last month a black-and-white photograph of a professor from Beijing Jiaotong University spread on social media. His image was edged by a black frame, like those displayed at funerals in China, and trimmed with white flowers of mourning. Though Mao Baohua is still very much alive, he had angered netizens enough to depict him as dead. His crime? To suggest that Beijing should follow the likes of London and Stockholm, by charging drivers 20-50 yuan ($3-7.50) to enter the capital’s busiest areas in the hope of easing traffic flow in the gridlocked city.


Most Chinese urbanites see buying a vehicle as a rite of passage: a symbol of wealth, status and autonomy, as it once was in America. Hence their outrage at any restraint on driving. Since car ownership is more concentrated among middle- and high-income earners in China than it is in richer countries, any attack on driving is, in effect, essentially aimed at the middle class, a group the Communist Party is keen to keep on side. That makes it hard to push through changes its members dislike.


Since 2009 officials in Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou have repeatedly aired the idea of introducing congestion charges. Netizens have fought back, accusing their governments of being lazy, brutal and greedy. Many also gripe that the policy would be “unfair” because the fee would have less impact on the super-rich. Complaints about the inequality of congestion charging echo those made in London and other cities before they launched such schemes. But the party, nervous of being accused of straying from socialism, is particularly sensitive to accusations that it is favouring the wealthiest.


Because of such objections, city governments have not pushed their proposals very hard. But that is now changing in Beijing, where officials face a dilemma. Traffic jams in the city and appalling air pollution—30% of which comes from vehicle fumes, by official reckoning—may end up causing as much popular resentment as any surcharge. The local government is trying to work out how close it is to this tipping point. It is conducting surveys to “pressure test” how people would react to a congestion fee, says Yuan Yue of Horizon, China’s biggest polling company (the results will not be made public). It is likely that a concrete plan for a congestion charge will be announced soon. Beijing’s environmental and transport departments (not usual partners) are collaborating on a draft. State media have recently published a flurry of articles about this, not all in favour.

由于来自各方面的反对,市政府推行这项政策的实施非常艰难。但是如今北京正在发生变化,官员们面临一种尴尬。城市交通拥堵以及惊人的空气污染严重-官方报道30%的空气污染来自汽车尾气排放或许会到头来同额外收费一样引起众怒。当地政府正在试图考虑目前达到這个零界点有多近了。当下通过一家中国最大的名叫“原野地平线”的问卷调查公司开展一项调研就民众对拥堵收费如何反应进行“压力测试” 北京环境和交通部(通常他们就合不来)在联手起草一个方案。最近国家媒体发表了一系列的文章谈论这项变革,看得出来一点儿都不赞成。

Public opinion is not the only challenge a congestion scheme faces. The urban planners who conceived Beijing’s layout, and that of other Chinese cities, never imagined that so many people would want to drive. The capital now has 3.6m privately owned cars: the number per 1,000 people in Beijing has increased an astonishing 21-fold since 2000, according to our sister company, the Economist Intelligence Unit. On most days large tracts of the capital are now bumper to bumper amid a cacophony of car horns. Beijingers have the longest average commute of any city in China, according to data collected by Baidu, a Chinese search engine. The problem is not confined to Beijing. The capital has higher vehicle ownership than any other Chinese city, but car use is rising rapidly across the country. Many second- and third-tier cities are already clogged.


Beijing’s congestion scheme would be the first outside the rich world, where a handful of cities Beijing’s congestion scheme would be the first outside the rich world, where a handful of cities now charge drivers to enter a designated area. (Singapore has a different form of road pricing, with tolls on individual arterial roads.) Such measures have been credited with reductions in downtown car-use, improved traffic flow and greater use of public transport. They have also cut pollution, including emissions of the tiny PM2.5 particles that are particularly dangerous to health and abundant in Beijing’s air.


Transport planners reckon a congestion zone would have similar effects in Beijing, and complement existing attempts to restrict car use. In 2008, after Beijing staged the Olympic games, the city launched the current system whereby each car is banned from the urban core one workday per week, depending on the last digit of its licence plate. Beijing is now one of 11 Chinese cities with similar restrictions.


But some drivers choose to pay the 100 yuan fine, which is far higher than the congestion charge that Beijing is now mulling (around the sums suggested by Professor Mao). People also drive without plates, or buy second cars, to bypass the rules. In 2011 the capital introduced a lottery for obtaining new licence plates (six other cities do this). In Beijing the scheme has slowed the increase in car ownership, but not enough to cut congestion; some residents use vehicles registered elsewhere. Also in 2011 the capital raised parking fees, hoping to deter drivers. But people often park on pavements and traffic islands instead, usually with impunity.

但是有些司机选择付100块罚款也要上路,而这种罚款比收拥堵费要高很多。北京正在对此深思熟虑的考虑(就是考虑毛教授提出的几项建议)人们还绕开法律的制约无牌照驾驶或买第二辆车。2011年首都实施了通过摇号拿新牌照的方式(还有其它6个城市采用了这种方法) 在北京这种摇号制的确使拥有轿车的数量受到了控制,放慢了购车的增长,可不足以减缓拥堵,有些居民用别的省份的牌照照样可以在路上开。还是2011年首都又推出高额停车费,希望会降低人们驾车出行。但是人们却将车停在了人行道上,甚至停在了安全岛里,因为这些地方通常不会被罚款。

Making it easier for cars to drive on side streets through residential areas would help, but the middle class rebuffs this too. Many wealthier residents live in gated communities, which have become common since urban housing, once almost entirely state-owned, was privatised in the 1990s. Recent proposals to open these areas to through-traffic provoked an uproar on social media. Middle-class Chinese see living in a compound with private, quiet roads as a sign of their upward mobility.


If congestion charging in Beijing is to encourage the use of public transport, the city will have to work fast to enable this. It has spent a lot of money in recent years trying to make the transport system better: the metro network has expanded from three lines in 2002 to 18 now, making it one of the most extensive in the world. But these efforts have failed to keep up with demand. The subway is so overcrowded that on an average day the authorities limit entrance to more than a fifth of stations at some point. Public transport accounted for half of all journeys last year (despite a target of 65% set in 2010), compared with 85% of trips in London even before the British capital launched its congestion charge in 2003. Taxis are relatively cheap in China, making them a popular alternative. Middle-class people often look down on public transport as the poor person’s choice. Some cities, including Guangzhou, have tried to tackle this (with some success) by introducing “bus rapid-transit” systems with modern-looking stops.

如果北京果真实施拥堵收费制就会鼓励人们大力使用公共交通,这座城市不得不加快步伐将這一新制实施。为了让交通体系变得更加完善最近几年花了不少钱,市政交通网从2002年的三条扩充到目前的18条,成为目前世界扩充最大的。可是这些努力并没有满足需求。地铁严重负载,平均每天政府都要在1/5的地铁站进口实行人数限制。同伦敦在2003年英国首都发起的收费规定实施前其公共交通利用率是85%相比,北京公共交通去年占总交通流量仅为一半儿(尽管2010年设想的是要达到65%) 在中国出租车相对便宜,使得出租成了人们的普遍选择。中产阶层的人们常瞧不起公共交通,认为那是穷人们的选择。有些城市像广州通过设立现代化外观的车站大力介绍所谓“巴士快速运营系统”已经着手试图解决這一问题了。

A congestion charge in Beijing may not do as much to cut pollution as some hope. The city says that only 4% of motor vehicles in Beijing are heavy-duty, but they contribute more than half of the poisonous nitrogen oxides produced by the capital’s traffic, and more than 90% of their emissions of PM2.5 and other toxic particles.


Congestion charging would certainly deter some drivers from using their cars in the city centre. It might even discourage others from buying cars: at the current rate of registration, there could be another half a million more in Beijing by 2020. Beijing could claim a victory of sorts just by managing to get such a scheme in place, against the wishes of a networked middle class. But that may prove harder than navigating Beijing’s traffic-snarled streets.