By on January 2, 2011

So. Yesterday, Jan 1, was the first day of the grand car rationing in Beijing, China. From now on out, only 20,000 new vehicles per month are allowed onto Beijing’s roads. (If you trade old for new, this rule doesn’t apply.) And what did Beijingers do? Take a taxi? The subway? No, they swamped the system.

A grand total of 53,549 people applied for a new Beijing license plate as of 5pm yesterday, the Beijing News reports. That’s more than double the number allotted for a whole month. Citizens can apply on-line. On the 26th of each month, there will be a big lucky draw, and if you win, you may buy a car. First in line stands the same chances as the applicant that entered on the 25th – which makes the run on the databank even more curious.

The 20,000 per month / 240,000 per year quota is not cast in stone. “Beijing will revise its car quota on a year-by-year basis, depending on road capacity and air quality,” transportation authorities told Global Times.

Those without a Beijing plate “are required from Jan. 1 to apply for a permit before entering the capital,” says Bloomberg.

That alone is fascinating. If taken literally, it would bring all traffic in China’s northern quadrant to its knees. If you inspect Google maps, you will see that Beijing’s city limits (dotted line) are drawn rather wide, and, not unusual for a capital, it is a traffic hub. Up there, most roads lead through Beijing.

When the new car regime was announced last month, a record 30,000 new vehicles were registered in Beijing in the week of December 13, Bloomberg says. The city now officially has 4.76 million cars. A city development, plan unveiled in 2004, had projected 5 million cars on Beijing’s roads by 2020. No wonder the following went viral in Beijing’s expat scene:

“Did you hear they will rename Beijing AGAIN?”

“No. What’s will it be called this time?”


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2 Comments on “53,000 Apply On The First Day Of Beijing’s Car Rationing...”

  • avatar

    This is hilarious. We had some of our Beijing colleagues in the office before Christmas and they were talking about what’s going on (at least locally) re car ownership. They said the allure is rapidly disappearing. Car horror stories are frequently in the news and papers.
    Take a densely populated city (country??) with excellent public transport, add cars and get; buyer’s remorse.

  • avatar

    Well, Beijing is Beijing, and Shanghai is Shanghai – but that’s only 40 million out of probably 1.5 billion. It’s a big country. In a way, similar to the U.S.A., except that it has only one coast. The car allure is strong. if you only have a bicycle or a moped. Only 63 cars per thousand, not 800 as in the U,S.
    The transformation is happening at breakneck speed, way faster than Japan or Korea. Sure, a snooty Beijinger who four years ago would have killed for a car now has second thoughts – elsewhere this took ages. The garage space in my building now costs $120 a month that’s a third of the wages of a secretary.
    But outside of the megacities, motorization has just begun. I have lived long enough to have heard predictions for just about every large city to drown in cars. All the cities are still alive. These are transitory problems. They will get a grip on it. And knowing the Chinese, they will get a grip faster than anyone else. Just look at their high speed trains.

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