Saturday, September 29, 2012

Graft+ gifts = Gridlock

Cars from out of town have been surging into Beijing to deliver gifts to powerful officials in the central government before the Mid-Autumn Festival tomorrow, worsening the usual gridlock, said many residents.
The annual ritual is believed to have spiked this year because the festival is back to back with National Day on Monday, which kick-starts a week-long break.
"The big corruption army has arrived, rushing into the capital bearing gifts," said resident Zhu Changren on his microblog. "They are the reason for the jam. If they come any later, they might not get promoted."
It resembles a feudalistic society, slammed another netizen Tang Wenmin. "Everyone is rushing to kowtow to the palace officials," he wrote.
Those in Beijing are to be blamed for the worsened gridlock too, said analysts. An increasing number of them are seizing the opportunity to maintain connections.
"It is not just the out-of-towners. The movement within the city has gone up as people are travelling all around offering presents and buying meals," said transport analyst Chen Yanyan from Beijing University of Technology.
The congestion broke records this week - an amazing feat in a city where traffic jams are already a way of life.
According to the authorities' traffic performance index, congestion peaked at 9.8 on Tuesday night, which is near total immobility. It is believed to be the highest since the ratings were introduced in May last year. The index runs on a scale of zero to 10. A higher number indicates more gridlock. The data is collated from global positioning systems on vehicles such as taxis and tour coaches.
By 6.30pm that day, vehicles were crawling in the rain at just 13kmh, said the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport.
Project coordinator Cindy Zhuang, 25, told The Straits Times that a usual drive of 10 minutes has lengthened to more than an hour in recent days.
The problem has worsened, said Professor Chen, because of the increase in vehicle population.
Despite a licence plate lottery aimed at limiting the number of new cars in Beijing to 20,000 a month, the city's vehicles took just two years to leap from four million in 2010 to the current 5.12 million.
To ease the pain, a Beijing radio station has even put a psychiatrist on air during peak hours to help drivers cope better when stuck in traffic.
The city authorities sent a mass text message yesterday to residents, urging them to avoid crowded areas and use public transport this weekend.
But buses and subways are stretched, too. An estimated 50 million individual trips are expected daily on the subways in the next week, a 20 per cent increase from last year.
Much of it is because of the influx of domestic tourists to the capital. The subway authorities have already announced the closure of the Beijing Zoo Subway Station during the Golden Week break, fearing a stampede.