Photo courtesy Saad.Akhtar via flickr and Creative Commons license.
The city of Beijing plans to issue only 20,000 car registrations per month (that's still a whopping 240,000 new cars annually) over the next year in order to control traffic. China is the world's hottest automobile market these days, and the restrictions, which went into place on December 24, have had the unintended effect of driving up car sales in the final month of 2010. According to China Car Times, over 50,000 new cars were sold in the first two weeks of December in response to coming cuts. That won't help traffic, among the world's worst.
After many decades of being the bicycle kingdom, industrialized China has become the car kingdom - 580,000 new cars were sold in Beijing - one city - in 2009, and sales in the city are expected to hit 850,000 by the end of this year. The city is expected to sport 5 million vehicles by sometime next year.
In response, city officials have devised a lottery system for new licenses in 2011. Citizens of Beijing must prove that they have been paying social security and personal taxes for five years in order to be eligible to be in the car lottery.
By April, city parking prices will also climb, and China Daily noted that the city is looking to put into place some driving restrictions similar to those imposed during the Beijing Olympic games.
Overall, Beijing will work to ease traffic congestion with underground highways, and expanded subway and bicycle lane networks.
But the stimuli to purchase personal cars are also strong among the Chinese middle class. There is a tax break for people buying small cars (soon to be discontinued), and a cash subsidy for buying fuel-efficient vehicles, and in spite of the competition for parking, consumers have the excess cash.
More on Beijing and Traffic
The Mother of All Traffic Jams, 9 Days and Counting
China's Public Enemy No. 1 (Hint: 500,000 More Hit the Roads Daily)
Facing Smog and Sluggish Traffic, Beijing Upgrades Its Public Bus System