HIT­TING THE BRAKES

Tian­jin to curb pri­vate car own­er­ship with lot­tery

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By YANG YAO in Bei­jing and ZHANG MIN in Tian­jin Con­tact the writer at yangyao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A new mea­sure by Tian­jin to re­strict the num­ber of new car li­cense plates on Mon­day cre­ated a buy­ing spree by res­i­dents ea­ger to pur­chase cars at the last minute.

In an at­tempt to re­duce traf­fic jams and air pol­lu­tion, the city im­posed a quota on new car plates start­ing on Mon­day, re­quir­ing buy­ers to take part in a lot­tery or bid at auc­tion to win a plate, ac­cord­ing to a no­tice is­sued by the city gov­ern­ment on Sun­day at 7 pm.

Cars pur­chased be­fore 12 am on Mon­day would be is­sued li­cense plates, the no­tice said, leav­ing only five hours for res­i­dents to ob­tain the last freely is­sued plates.

He Shuang, a sales­per­son at an Audi deal­er­ship in Tian­jin, said the pol­icy in­creased the store’s sales vol­ume ten­fold be­tween 7 pm and mid­night.

“Most con­sumers paid 30,000 yuan ($4,940) more in or­der to get cars in time,” she said.

Xue Kun, a man­ager at a used car mar­ket in Tian­jin, said hec­tic pur­chas­ing of cars started around 6 pm when res­i­dents heard there was a pos­si­bil­ity of the re­stric­tion.

The mar­ket, which ac­counts for half of all car trans­ac­tions in Tian­jin, sold more than 800 cars on Sun­day, four times its usual trad­ing vol­ume.

When the new mea­sure was con­firmed on Sun­day, lo­cal res­i­dent Zhang Zhi rushed to a deal­er­ship at Tian­jin Air­port Eco­nomic Area and bought a car be­fore they sold out.

“You had only three to five min­utes to con­sider what type of car and what color to buy be­fore they sold out,” Zhang said.

A sales­per­son in another deal­er­ship who de­clined to give his name said, “The gov­ern­ment is giv­ing too lit­tle time for res­i­dents to adapt to the new pol­icy.”

Ding Limin, a pro­fes­sor of traf­fic engineering man­age­ment with the Peo­ple’s Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Univer­sity of China, said if more time was given, too many cars would be sold, re­sult­ing in the op­po­site of the city’s drive to curb car own­er­ship.

Ding said the buy­ing frenzy re­flected a lack of un­der­stand­ing of car use.

Pri­vate au­to­mo­bile own­er­ship, in the view of many Chi­nese, rep­re­sents a per­son’s so­cial sta­tus, Ding said.

“This re­sults in the un­nec­es­sary use of ve­hi­cles,” he said.

Ding said his re­search found that car own­ers in Tokyo use their ve­hi­cles only one-tenth of the time as those in Bei­jing.

Un­nec­es­sary car use is the main cause of traf­fic jams and air pol­lu­tion, he said.

“This needs a trans­for­ma­tion of peo­ple’s rea­sons for us­ing cars and for them to bear more so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said.

Tian­jin will also fol­low Bei­jing in adopt­ing a traf­fic re­stric­tion scheme, which blocks cars from use de­pend­ing on the last digit of their li­cense plates, with two num­bers banned each work­day, said Miao Hong­wei, head of the city’s traf­fic man­age­ment bureau, as quoted by Xin­hua News Agency on Sun­day.

The ban, which will take ef­fect on March 1, is ex­pected to take one-fifth of the city’s pri­vate cars off the roads on work­days.

The city will also ban ve­hi­cles with non-lo­cal plates from driv­ing within the city’s outer ring road dur­ing morn­ing and evening rush hours on work­days, Miao said.

Ac­cord­ing to Xin­hua, Tian­jin had 2.36 mil­lion reg­is­tered mo­tor ve­hi­cles by 2012, and the av­er­age driv­ing speed on down­town roads dur­ing rush hours dropped to 19.5 km/h in 2011.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A used car mar­ket in Tian­jin ex­tended its op­er­at­ing hours on Sun­day to process car own­er­ship trans­fers af­ter the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties an­nounced re­stric­tions on car pur­chases.

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