Beijing’s Olympics proved an enormous success, both in sporting terms and, perhaps more surprisingly, in terms of transport provision. This website’s China correspondent, David Kim, assesses the traffic control legacy for the people of Beijing.
“You and me, from one world, we are family…” whenever I hear this Olympic Theme song, I felt great regret that I didn’t go and watch the Beijing Olympic Games this summer. I missed a great show and a spectacular party, which happened within a few miles of my home.
Of course there are several private reasons for not attending, but the biggest one was my concern over likely traffic conditions in Beijing. As a transport journalist living in China I am all too aware that Beijing’s traffic is terrible. Before the Games it was hard to imagine how Beijing could continue to operate as a sprawling city with 3.36 million motor vehicles plus the thousands of tourists, athletes, and government officials who visited during the Olympics and Paralympics.
As we know now, Beijing not only presented the world with a hugely successful Games spectacle, it also surprised many observers, me included, by removing its notorious traffic problems.
Many readers will be familiar with the measures, which contributed to this success, such as the odd-even vehicle licence restriction and the special Olympic bus lanes that also worked very effectively. But these special traffic control measures were introduced for the duration of the Games alone and cannot now sustain the magic.
So what are the traffic telematics developments that will outlive the Games?
Traffic control and command center built
The Olympic traffic command center now provides Beijing with up-to-the-minute information on traffic flows. A wireless traffic monitoring system allows police officers in patrol cars to access the database at the control center.
Motorists in Beijing can access real-time traffic information from Sina, with support from MapABC, the fully owned subsidiary of AutoNavi.
Web-based traffic inquiry service
Beijing’s core business district has established a web-based traffic inquiry system, through which travelers can check traffic conditions and determine the most convenient traffic route.
Bus priority at signals
A total of 126 intelligent road sensors have been installed at the intersections of the special traffic lanes for the Games. A sensor will transmit a message to the traffic signal control system as soon as it detects a bus waiting in the Olympic lane at a crossing. The inbuilt software in the system will then change the traffic light to green to shorten the waiting time of the vehicle. Such sensors will also improve public transport.
Around 5,000 vehicles have been fitted with the bus priority ID cards. The bus detection system has also been installed at 30 of the city’s other major junctions that were not on Olympic lanes.
Broadcast traffic updates
A top priority for the Beijing traffic bureau is to provide real-time information on the best routes through the busy city broadcasters. Broadcasters will have access to the very latest traffic information, which they will pass on to listeners. The traffic management system monitors 80% of the road network in urban Beijing, so wherever and whenever there is a jam or an accident, broadcasters will know about it.
Traffic message channel (TMC) services
Taiwan-based Mio Technology has launched a GPS navigation device in Beijing that provides updated traffic message channel (TMC) services for drivers. Claimed to be the first GPS/TMC service of its kind in China’s mainland market, drivers punch in a destination and the GPS will show the various routes, and direct the driver around traffic hold-ups.
Now that the Beijing Olympics is coming to an end, it has left us all in China with feelings of great joy, unforgettable memories and
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