Guangzhou has fewer cars on the streets Monday as traffic restrictions came into effect in an attempt to turn the polluted and crowded southern metropolis into a greener venue for the upcoming Asian Games.
Under the even-odd license plate method introduced by the city's environmental protection bureau, vehicles with odd license plates were banned from the streets for the day. Tomorrow, even-numbered cars must stay in the garage.
"The traffic is so much better and there are fewer cars on the road today," said a civil servant surnamed Li, who takes the bus to work everyday.
During the Games, scheduled for Nov. 12 to Nov. 27, more than 14,000 athletes and officials, and tens of thousands of visitors from different countries and regions, are expected to squeeze onto the city's already-crowded public transport network.
The games' organizers are hoping that traffic restrictions would result in easier breathing and reduced traffic during the Games.
Under the restriction, cars are banned from roads from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on alternate days based upon the last digit of the license plate. Only public transportation and supporting vehicles for the games are exempt.
License plates ending with odd numbers will be banned on odd-numbered days and plates ending in even numbers will be banned on even-numbered days.
The traffic rules will be in place from Nov. 1 to Nov. 29 for the Asian Games and again from Dec. 5 to Dec. 21 for the Asian Para Games.
The auto restrictions apply to both the 2.1 million cars registered in the city and motor vehicles hoping to enter the city.
By enforcing the restrictions, municipal officials hope to remove 871,000 vehicles from the city's roads, accounting for 64.5 percent of the city's total, said Ding Hongdu, director of Guangzhou's environmental protection bureau.
Additionally, fines of up to 200 yuan (30 U. S. dollars) will be levied for vehicles violating the rules and over 500 surveillance devices have been installed across the city to catch violators.
Vice director of Guangzhou environmental protection bureau Li Xin said, "The city had tried the restriction in July and September, and air quality at that time was tested and found to be much better than usual."
During the 46-day traffic restriction, Guangzhou is offering free public transportation during the 30 workdays. Also, more than 1,000 buses have been added for public transportation.
"It's great to have free buses. I will take the bus to travel around the city with friends," said Huang Yong, 55. "I think the measures will encourage more people to take buses and trains instead of private cars, which will contribute to a better environment."
Further, the local government of Guangzhou has introduced multiple air-quality improvement measures, ranging from closing down factories to banning roadside barbecues.
"Since 2004, Guangzhou has closed, shut down or moved 147 industrial enterprises to reduce pollution and 42,000 restaurants were inspected," said Li Zhuo, an official in Guangzhou environmental protection bureau.
"Currently, the use of clean energy accounts for 97.6 percent of the total in the catering industry," said Li.
A similar traffic restriction took about 45 percent of Beijing's then 3.29 million cars off the roads and resulted in shorter travel times and less pollution during the Olympic Games in 2008.
Beijing has since extended the restriction by banning privately owned vehicles from roads one day per week based upon license plate numbers.
Similarly, Shanghai imposed quotas on car ownership in 1986, according to which license plates are issued on a quota basis and are auctioned for an average of 40,000 yuan, half the price of a Volkswagen Jetta sedan.
Still, congestion causes bottlenecks in the city with 18 million people and an estimated 1.6 million motor vehicles.
In order to ease the city's congestion for the Expo, Shanghai built hundreds of kilometers of metro lines and new airport terminals.