Does Beijing Have Too Many Cars?

The skies of Beijing have cleared somewhat after draconian measures have taken effect to curb pollution, which include closing factories and taking roughly half the vehicles off the road. I thought this observation from the Post’s coverage today was interesting:

But a few motorists said they hoped the changes would not be temporary.

“Ten years ago, the government promoted the dream of owning a car in order to develop the car industry,” said Zhang Dalin, 40, a sales manager who usually drives to work but now takes a bus and the subway. “Now, traffic and pollution are so bad, they have to do something. But ordinary people shouldn’t pay the price for the government’s wrong decisions.”

The options for government to “do something” presumably include transit improvements (which are happening) and measures to curb auto use: higher taxes and fees, congestion pricing, or inflexible rules like the even-odd license plate number restrictions used today.

With Beijing’s 2007 population of 17,430,000, assuming an average household size of 3, and taking the Post’s figure of 3.3 million cars, that translates into roughly 0.57 cars per household, or 43% with no vehicles. For comparison, that means Beijing has more cars per household than New York City and Newark but less than any other big U.S. city.

Author: Rob Goodspeed