Road Pricing Versus Car Ban to Control Air Pollution
A traffic jam during peak hours in Beijing. The capital city currently has more than 5 million automobiles.[Photo by Feng Yongbin/China Daily]
Beijing in Hebei province / Image: BWPI
Private drivers who defy the car ban in response to air pollution and traffic congestion in Beijing risk a 100-yuan ($15) fine each time they are caught. It has never been a popular policy, especially when the restrictions get tougher for extraordinary reasons.
During the heavy smog from Dec 19-22 when private cars were only allowed on the streets on alternate days, the city police issued a whopping 112,800 tickets, including 44,000 on the last day.
Those breaking the rules could have adopted a utilitarian approach that the benefits of having things going along as usual had outweighed the cost of their infringement. Or they thought they've paid hefty sums for their right to use the roads and their vehicles and it is unfair and unjust to be pulled from the streets from time to time.
Worse, many thought city managers had picked an easy target or even barked up the wrong tree as they seemed to focus on residents rather than high-polluting industries and factories.
Obviously, the economic notion of external costs that a driver causes to others was not in their equations. The sentiment also prevailed over the fact that the bureaucratic fiats had helped reduce PM2.5, the most dangerous pollutants in the air, while bringing more blue-sky days.
However flawed their reasoning could be, the public discontent cannot be ignored and it has prompted the question: Are there any other more efficient, less contentious ways to curb automotive emissions in the fight against the worsening smog?...