Beijing is considering turning a temporary restriction on vehicles—a system based on odd-even license plate numbers that was used during the recent APEC meetings—into a long-term policy, drawing praise as well as concerns from the public.
“We have received much positive feedback on the odd-even license plate traffic restriction during the APEC meetings, suggesting that we make it a routine regulation, even on weekends, so we will further discuss and hold hearings on the suggestion,” said Li Shixiang, deputy mayor of Beijing, on Nov 26.
But the decision to consider the change does not mean the tough restriction will be implemented soon, Li said.
In contrast to the heavy smog on Nov 26, when the capital issued a yellow alert on air pollution, the third-highest level, Beijing witnessed rare blue skies during the period of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings from Nov 3 to 12, making “APEC blue” a popular phrase.
To control air pollution for the major international event, Beijing implemented strict measures to cut emissions of pollutants by reducing the number of private vehicles on roads based on license plate number, and by suspending the work of polluting industries and construction sites to control coal consumption.
According to the Beijing Commission of Transport, traffic flow was reduced during the period by 70 percent instead of the estimated 50 percent.
More than 34 million netizens commented on or forwarded the news item about the proposed restriction on the platforms of People’s Daily since it was released in the morning on Nov 26.
“I think it’s not feasible to rein in the use of private vehicles that harshly, because of the great inconvenience that would be expected,” said Wang Wei, a taxi driver in Beijing.
He added that if the restriction were to be implemented, the number of taxis should be increased to meet the increased demand.
Some people in the city agreed with the proposed restriction because they believed the reduced vehicle exhaust would bring cleaner air and traffic congestion would be greatly eased.
Yang Chongyong, deputy governor of Hebei province, said, “Air pollution control needs the joint efforts from Beijing as well as neighboring regions.”
To reduce pollution during the APEC meetings, Hebei suspended 8,340 polluting companies and 5,825 construction sites.
Yang called for support from Beijing and Tianjin on air pollution control as well as in other ways through integrated regional development.