Beijing Cars Return to Streets with Gusto
It already seems like a distant dream: four days of smooth sailing. As Jack’s post ( “Beijing: A Test Run for the Olympics”) described, Beijing implemented a four day car reduction program (alternating right to road by odd/even license plated cars) in light of Olympic exercises. A few things are certain: the beach volleyball athletes were not the only ones who appreciated the blue skies and the sky was not the only thing that cleared up.
Though the purpose of the exercise was air quality control, the benefits extended to much improved traffic. Taxi drivers were elated with the emptier streets and increase in passengers (which some described as merely moderate, not as substantial as one might have expected). Some of my colleagues on the other hand, complained about the difficulty in hailing a cab; while others seemed to have no problems at all.
Once things returned to normal on Monday, we had an opportunity to continue to enjoy blue skies and sunshine—while stuck in traffic. Private cars returned to the road, yet with seemingly greater “enthusiasm.” One of my rides – from Dongzhimen Nei to Jianwai Soho– normally approximately 15 – 20 minutes, took a whopping 41 minutes only because we avoided the quilt of cars on the second ring road and off of Chaowai, opting for smaller streets. My drivers, with whom I had plenty of time to chat, lamented the roaring return of private vehicles.
Many preparations are still needed for the Olympics, but one thing is for sure—taxi drivers would be happy to keep testing for blue skies.