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Smart Strategies for Private Vehicle Ownership and Usage in Chengdu

The paper offers detailed policy solutions for Chengdu for traffic congestion, which has become a growing problem because of the rise in the number of private cars. It draws on the experiences of Chinese and overseas cities to suggest steps by which Chengdu could adopt a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) approach. The recommendations cover controlling car ownership, parking management and other fiscal measures to curb car numbers.

Executive Summary

Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan province in Southwest China, as well as the Western China’s key economic and transportation center. Chengdu’s vehicle ownership soared from 760,000 in 2001 to 3.04 million in 2012. If Chengdu opts for a development path that favors private car ownership and does nothing to control the number of cars, then vehicle ownership will continue to soar, hitting at least 4.6 million by 2020 and 6.8 million by 2030. If there is no effective TDM intervention, either to manage vehicle ownership or usage, then the traffic congestion and air quality issues will be too late to be manageable.

Experience from international cities shows that early TDM intervention can avoid uncontrollable vehicle growth and “buy” time to develop public transportation. In addition, strict TDM policies, such as high parking fees, vehicle quotas, traffic restrictions, and congestion charges, also cut vehicle use in the short- to medium-term. Unfortunately, Chengdu neither adopted TDM measures early on nor does it currently have strict TDM measures.

Recommendations: A series of TDM measures that can be implemented in three phases, starting with strict, regulatory measures and moving towards market-based ones.

Phase 1 – Controlling quotas + parking management + traffic restrictions: Limit the number of new vehicles that can be bought to a quota of 110,000 each year. Introduce stricter parking management by raising parking fees by 10 CNY/hour and fines for illegal parking by 100 CNY in the central district. Introduce traffic restrictions and restrict government cars.

Phase 2 – Add market-based measures: i) offer a sustainable way to control road use and vehicle use/ownership demand which will help to gradually ease congestion; and ii) revenue from the fees can be injected into improving public transport.

Phase 3 – Create a transit-focused system with market-based measures: such as congestion charging and low emission zone, and parking and vehicle pricing, to transform Chengdu into a sustainable and livable city.

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