China’s Tianjin to Begin Restricting Car Population, Xinhua Says

China’s northern Tianjin municipality will begin restricting its car population next year to control traffic congestion and air pollution, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Only 100,000 new license plates will be issued in Tianjin next year, of which 60,000 will be distributed by lottery and the rest auctioned off for a minimum bid of 10,000 yuan ($1,650) each, according to Xinhua. Government departments will be banned from buying new official cars and all proceeds from the auctions will go to support public transportation, Xinhua reported, citing a plan approved by the Tianjin government.

The city of 14 million, located about 111 kilometers (69 miles) from Beijing, follows the capital, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Guiyang in imposing vehicle quotas. Chinese auto production and sales may slow next year as more cities in China impose quotas on vehicles to control worsening air pollution and traffic jams, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said this month.

In Tianjin, congestion has intensified so much that average travel speeds in the city center have slowed 18 percent compared with 2000, Xinhua said. Carmakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. have factories in Tianjin.

China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, is home to some of the world’s most polluted cities, with smog levels that can surpass World Health Organization safety thresholds by almost 40 times. Outdoor air pollution was found to cause lung cancer and linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, a WHO agency said this week, rating it as a carcinogen for the first time.

Beijing in 2010 announced a cap of 240,000 new vehicles a year after the city was voted as having the world’s most painful commute in a global poll by International Business Machines Corp. The Chinese capital will further tighten the annual quota to 150,000 in 2014, according to a Beijing Daily report posted on the municipal government’s website.

Shanghai has been auctioning license plates since 1986, with winning bids hitting a record 90,000 yuan this year. The city is studying whether to impose a traffic congestion charge as part of a broader plan to fight pollution.

— With assistance by Kongho Chua

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