What’s Behind China’s Big Traffic Jam



Beijing’s inner area traffic congestion is like that of New York City. The population density is 30,000 people per square mile (the approximate density also of the four New York boroughs), too high to move the volume of traffic over a freeway and expressway system. Higher population densities are associated with greater traffic congestion, slower speeds, stop and go traffic and more intense pollution. Beijing and New York share all of these conditions.

There is a perception that the traffic situation could become substantially worse in Beijing, and that could well be the case. However, it is surprising that the Bejing (the city/province) is already well along in private vehicle ownership and use. Beijing has achieved a car ownership rate almost equal to that of New York City’s dense boroughs. In 2008, the dense boroughs of New York City had 0.52 cars per household, while Beijing had achieved a 0.51 rate. One report now places Beijing’s car ownership one third higher than in 2008, which would place Beijing’s car ownership rate 20% above that of New York City.


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