More Cars, More Problems

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The state press reported today that Beijing has added nearly 1,500 new cars a day so far this year, about 100 more daily than last year. With the economic slump, declining auto sales and ongoing restrictions on driving in the Chinese capital, you’d think that the rate at which new vehicles jam onto the streets here would at least slow. But no luck. No explanations were given for the continuing car boom, though AFP points out that the government has offered a tax break on smaller cars to encourage the purchase of less polluting vehicles.

Here’s another theory, one that I mentioned when the government announced its latest car restriction plan last year. The rules mean that drivers lose the ability to use their vehicles one day each week. As a result, people rent, borrow, share and yes even buy new cars to get around the restrictions. That’s exactly what happened when Mexico City launched a similar plan in 1989. So residents of the Chinese capital have to put up with continuing traffic problems and poor air quality. On the bright side the ill-conceived rules may help the government in its drive to increase domestic consumption. Something for Beijing’s 17 million plus residents to be happy about next time they’re stuck in a traffic jam.