Free bus rides offered to ease road congestion
Updated: 2012-10-11 00:15
By Xu Wei in Beijing and Huang Zhiling in Chengdu (China Daily)
Authorities are offering free bus rides in downtown areas of Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province, in a bid to encourage the use of public transport and ease the city's traffic gridlock.
From Wednesday, 33 bus routes operating on, and in-between, Chengdu's Second and Third Ring roads will be free of charge.
Another 11 free bus routes will start operation by the end of this month.
The move comes as local authorities introduced traffic restrictions in the same area the free buses will operate.
As of Monday, the last two numbers on a car's license plate will determine when it is permitted to drive in the downtown areas of Chengdu. Monday's numbers are 1 and 6, Tuesday is 2 and 7, Wednesday 3 and 8, Thursday 4 and 9, and Friday 5 and 0.
The traffic control measures will be in force between 7:30 am and 8 pm. There are no restrictions on weekends.
The free bus rides and traffic restrictions will be in force until June 30 next year.
Chengdu joins Beijing and a number of provincial capital cities in China by introducing strict traffic control measures.
Local transport authorities said traffic control is easing road congestion in urban areas and reducing traffic pollution.
Chengdu has more than 2.1 million vehicles. Since 2006, the number of vehicles has increased at an annual rate of 20 percent, Chengdu Daily reported.
The construction of new subway lines, road expansion and the building of new road exchanges have further aggravated congestion.
"It looks like there are construction sites everywhere in Chengdu now," said Li Xiao-yong, a local taxi driver. "More often than not, I advise my passengers to get out of my car and take a motorbike taxi if they are in a hurry," he said.
The congestion has also cut his daily turnover from more than 600 yuan ($90) to 450 yuan.
The average road speed during rush hour in the city was only 13 km per hour as of August, Chengdu Daily reported.
Traffic has also been a major source of pollution in the city.
Tu Zhi, deputy director of the transport committee of Chengdu, told a news conference on Sept 12 that Chengdu will have another 2,000 buses on its streets by the end of this year and the city's seniors will be permitted to take a total of 900 free bus rides every year from October.
Along with the free bus rides, the local subway company will offer residents a 20 percent discount when they use subway payment cards.
Wang Yu, a manager of bus routes from Chengdu Public Transport Group Co, said the free bus service is aimed at encouraging more residents to refrain from using private vehicles and switch to using public transport.
Luo Chuyi, 63, was among the first group of local residents to ride on the free buses on Wednesday.
Luo's son runs a flower plantation in the western part of Chengdu, so she decided to help deliver the flowers from her son's plantation to suburban areas using the bus.
"Delivering the flowers by taking public transport is good exercise for me," she said.
Gao Bo, a bus driver whose bus route is in the city's First Ring road area, hopes the free bus rides will be extended to other areas of the city to ease congestion.
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