You may not have heard about it during your local traffic report this weekend, but anyone negotiating the Beijing-Tibet expressway in recent days is painfully aware of the problem: a 62-mile jam that slowed traffic to a crawl between the Chinese capital and Jining city. But while such huge traffic jams aren't unheard of, China's traffic woes are unique in their duration – the current traffic snarl (it's still ongoing) has been unfolding since August 14, making for nine days of gridlock.
While initial reactions to that news might range from awe to genuine pity for the commuters stuck in that mess, the jam also highlights massive opportunity for the Chinese. While Detroit declines, China is quickly becoming the world's largest auto economy. China is selling passenger cars to its own citizens at a pace that seems unfathomable during an overall global economic decline (last year China automotive market moved 13.6 million cars, compared with 10.4 million in the U.S.). China is also on the brink of becoming a major automotive exporter, meaning Chinese manufacturers and designers will soon be deciding what commuters drive in other parts of the world.
But while China has also laid down massive amounts of pavement to accommodate that growing market (along with more than 100 airport projects around the country and ever-faster, ever-expanding rail infrastructure), the country can't keep up with the pace of traffic, periodically allowing the amount of cars to overwhelm the freeway system. The current traffic jam follows similar snarls in June and July and was caused by a spike in cargo truck traffic heading into Beijing. Maintenance work (repairing damage caused by the increased cargo traffic) compounded the problem, and until that project is finished next month the gridlock is expected to continue. The point being, China can keep adding highway lanes but the Chinese are already purchasing the cars with which to fill them.
These are the kinds of problems that can lead to innovative solutions, making China a promising test bed not just for automotive technologies but groundbreaking new transit platforms and fresh thinking in city planning. Planning happens to be China's strong suit, and lacking those annoying regulatory hurdles that might hinder grand visions in other nations the country has the ability to drastically reorganize itself via truly big infrastructure projects.
China is not afraid to gamble either; when we wrote about the "straddling bus" earlier this month, it looked like one of those half-cocked schemes that are technically dazzling but outside the realm of practical application. Yet China has already mapped out 116 miles of Beijing roadway to test the experimental 1,200-passenger electric buses, with infrastructure upgrades beginning by year's end.
This month's (and presumably next month's) traffic jam is a prescient reminder that what works in other countries doesn't necessarily work in China, and its cash-flush, hands-on approach to urban planning and technology development (sometimes seen as anathema to more laissez-faire Western principles) will likely lead to envelope-pushing new blueprints for the high-density cities of the future. Whether it's the automobile itself that undergoes radical transformation or the infrastructure that serves it (or more likely both) remains to be seen, but given its current trajectory the Chinese market is set to redefine automobile transit for the coming decades.
What it means is LA is no longer the traffic jam champ!
No way you will get me to tour China! No way!
Same with California! No way! Big one is weeks away!
Never thought it would happen this soon.
What it also means is more smog piling up in Chinese cities.
Ugh it was bad enough but with 60 mile traffic jams that many cars idling will spew an incredible filth into the world's air supply.
China is now the worst producer of filth in the world surpassing the USA by a wide margin!!!
Can your car idle for 9 straight days? I'm pretty sure mine would run out of gas.
Automotive companies need to stop making cars and begin dismantling them.
Once all the excess cars are removed from the world, they need to agree to only make one new model of each vehicle every 5 or 10 years and ONLY by order.
Too many cars in the world...
According to 2007 figures the US produces 19.1 tonnes of CO2 per capita, China produces 4.6 tonnes per capita. ie the average American produces 4 times as much C02 as an average Chinese person.
China is overall the biggest polluter, but then it's also the country that buys the most socks - there are more people you see.
You have to make any statistic 'per capita' otherwise it's meaningless.
But you are comparing a country where 98% of the population has a car and needs a car, to a country where it is more like 10%. Of course, the huge number of people in China [and India, etc] who live in remote areas and live off the land are contributing very little the CO2 production, because their standard of living doesn't 'require' it. As those countries become more and more indutrialized, they are just going to catch up to the indutrialized world...
Wouldn't it be nice to ONLY drive in the areas you wish, but NOT the roads in between? Here's how. This train system would have specially built auto-carrying cars. From outdoor flat-beds to indoor over-nighters. You enter and exit using computer-operated doors on each side. Make inexpensive cement ramps along every route for access. Train-Cars could also have retractable hydraulic ramps. Purchase your ticket online or at any RR ramp booth. When the train pulls up...drive into your assigned berth, park. and turn off your vehicle. You can now relax and enjoy the ride! Tune your radio to receive train information or watch onboard TV screens with entertainment, news, historic and tourist things, as well as advertising for local businesses up ahead.(a moving Yellow-Pages?) When the train stops at your exit...the door opens... and you drive out!
On the next LONG trip, you may want to try the sleeper berth. Imagine the amenities it could offer! (bed, bath, jacuzzi, pool, restaurant, dining table with a view, etc.) You can leave your garage/suite and walk the hallway outside your locked, fully monitored space. Departures to explore areas along the route are quick and easy. Just tell the onboard computer of your change in plans, it stops at the site you desire, and you drive out. You can get back on another train to continue your journey if you wish, or re-route. Your electric car is charged in your 'room' as you travel by this futuristic vehicle-carrying train. It could save a LOT of money and resources as well as help the environment! Everyone could drive around in electric vehicles that didn't go very far on a charge. They could travel over vast, isolated areas without worry. The Grand Canyon in a golf cart? Sure! Why not? The RR brags about how much it can haul for pennies a mile. Let's change it in a fun and world-helping way. ALL ABOARD!
Hey, everybody! I have the solution! Read the above!
Uh no... you don't have the solution. China just needs to cut down on its air pollution, it's killing us all. www.colonzone.org