Beijing just announced a new policy to control the number of cars without local licences on the road in order to ease traffic and reduce air pollution.
Starting November 1 next year, people can no longer drive cars with non-Beijing licences without a time limit. They can apply for permits that allow them to drive in the city a maximum of 12 times per year, with each permit effective for seven consecutive days.
The policy means that a person who owns a car with a licence registered elsewhere can only drive it for 84 days in the capital per year. During days without permission to drive, their cars cannot be driven or parked in public areas in the city that are not residential parking lots.
“There have been too many cars with non-Beijing licences on the roads in recent years, which has made the traffic terrible,” said Ding Zhe, 42, a resident who now takes the subway to work, even though he owns a car with a Beijing licence, because of the inescapable traffic congestion.
The number of cars registered in Beijing was 5.97 million as of April, according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport.
However, the number of cars without Beijing licences that are driven constantly in the downtown area is as high as 700,000 – as many as the total number of cars in Hong Kong.
To control the rapid increase of cars in the capital, Beijing started a policy in 2010 where people have to apply for licence plates and obtain one through a lottery before they buy a car.
However, due to the large demand, the possibility of getting a licence has become more and more difficult. Those who don’t want to try their luck choose to buy a car registered elsewhere and use that vehicle in the city.
Many car retailers provide services to help people get a non-Beijing licence with a cost of about 4,500 yuan (Bt23,000).
After the purchase, the car owners only need to put a record online to get digital permits on a weekly basis to drive their cars in the capital.
In 2015, the authority gave out 50,000 permits every day. In 2016, the number soared to 100,000 a day. Since the start of 2017, the authority has given out 725,000 permits every week. This aroused the attention of city managers.
“The aim of the permit is for people who do not live in Beijing to drive their cars into the capital to deal with matters occasionally,” said Zhang Rui, an associate professor focused on city planning at Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture.
“People who permanently use their cars without local licences in the city have actually harmed the fairness of the lottery policy.
“Even though there is rigid demand for cars, the city policymakers still have to make social fairness a priority to ensure the effectiveness of existing regulations,” she said.