Friday, March 7, 2008

Gridlock Theory

Now that Spring Festival has come and gone, students back at school and people back to work, rush hour is worse than ever.

Commuting to work has become a trying journey. When my taxi hits the fourth ring road, cars inch along the freeway.

Only a few weeks ago I could get to work in 20 minutes easily, but now I'm lucky if I get to work on time in a good half hour.

What happened?

Part of it is the ever increasing number of cars on the road -- apparently 1,000 cars each day, and over 3 million in total.

The other is a theory I'm beginning to believe more and more.

A woman from Hong Kong who studies Chinese medicine here says the traffic jams are caused by people's lack of respect for the rules of the road.

When the light turns red, cars are still crossing the intersection while those in the other direction are starting to enter the intersection.

In many intersections there aren't any left turn signals and so when the light turns green, those trying to turn go on the offensive and try to turn before those cars approaching have a chance to cross the intersection.

Or in many cases, the car turning left blocks the innermost lane, blocking traffic. Some cars in the innermost lane even try to go around the turning car which is an accident waiting to happen.

Also complicating matters are people hailing cabs wherever they are, even if it's at a bus stop, holding up traffic, or people riding bikes dragging flat bed trailers behind them, preventing buses from loading and unloading passengers a bit faster.

So if everyone obeyed the traffic rules better, says this woman, then people would be able to get from point A to point B faster.

Now the roads are barely able to carry all the traffic, and the Beijing government can't build more streets fast enough. So something's gotta give. The government hopes that by constructing more subway lines people will take more public transit. But the subway lines don't service all areas of the city and will still have to take buses.

But those who have cars will never go back to taking buses. Their experiences with "the loser cruiser" are ones crammed full of people, at times smelly and bus assistants shouting at people to pay the fare.

It's too bad Beijing is so spread out. Logistically it's difficult to get around and it usually takes longer than you think to get somewhere.

However, I still like taking the bus -- as long as it's not rush hour and I'm not in a hurry. You can't beat getting a ride for 0.4 RMB (US 0.06).

1 comment:

ks said...

public education and control the number of cars and improved highway and road systems are required. china needs to learn more from western countries for the traffic controls