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Expanding the subway and bike lane networks should help reduce gridlock in downtown Beijing, but authorities do not expect to see major improvements in traffic flow in 2018, information released over the weekend suggests.
The city aims to maintain a level of 5.7 on the traffic index this year, meaning "mild congestion", Rong Jun, a spokesman for the Beijing Transport Commission, said on Saturday during Beijing"s ongoing two sessions. The index for the past two years has been 5.6.
He said the government will release a plan containing multiple measures for tackling traffic jams after the annual meetings of the city"s top legislature and advisory bodies, which end on Tuesday.
"The city will continue to accelerate construction of the subway, with an aim to increase the total length from 608 to 632 kilometers, as well as improve 900 km of bicycle lanes," Rong said.
"We expect 73 percent of commuters will travel by public transportation this year," he added, an increase of 1 percentage point on 2017.
Rong said the government will also adopt a mechanism to assess how a proposed project could affect an area"s traffic flow in order to prevent congestion.
"In Tongzhou district, the city"s subcenter, the authorities are already taking measures to ensure clear traffic. Citywide, we"re also regulating roadside parking," he said.
A senior source with the Transport Commission, who asked not to be identified, predicted on Saturday the average commute in Beijing would be cut to only about 30 minutes once municipal departments begin relocating to Tongzhou.
According to an earlier plan, Beijing"s Party committee, city government, people"s congress and political consultative conference were expected to move from downtown to suburban Lucheng area by the end of 2017. So far, the project has not started, and no revised time frame has been announced.
However, once the work is completed, companies and small businesses will follow to provide employment opportunities and services to the shifting population, which will have a knock-on effect to downtown traffic, the senior source said.
A report by tech giant Tencent and ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing ranked Beijing top among 50 Chinese cities for commuting distance and time. The average commute in the capital covers 19.2 km and lasts 52 minutes.
By comparison, the average in Chicago in the United States is 32.4 minutes, according to a survey by Auto Accessories Garage, an online retailer. The average in New York City is 29.5 minutes.
In the Chinese capital, people often live far from their workplace due to the high cost of real estate in central areas. As the city has expanded, the commute for many people has become longer.
The Tencent-Didi report said most travel is from Huilongguan, Tiantongyuan, Tongzhou, Daxing and Yanjiao in neighboring Hebei province. All of these places are outside of the capital"s Fifth Ring Road.
Wu Jie, 32, travels nearly 60 km every weekday from his home in northern Tiantongyuan to his work at a transportation company in southwestern Fangshan district. It is a round trip of about four hours.
"I hope the traffic will be better when more people move to Tongzhou, so I don"t have to spend so much time on the road," he said.
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