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Beijing traffic jams only growing

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Andy Wong/AP file

(Read caption) In this Sept. 3 file photo, a commuter sleeps inside a double-decker bus in a traffic jam during rush hour in Beijing, China. Beijing is now recording its worst traffic jams in years. An average of 1,900 new cars were sold each day this year, bringing the number of vehicles in Beijing to 4.5 million as of July.

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Beijing traffic continues to be appalling following the extreme traffic jam that lasted for 10 days and stretched 60 miles in mid-August. A brief respite came during the Mid-Autumn Festival (or Moon Festival) in late September, when the roads cleared for a week because no one had to go to work. But front pages again show photos of chockablock intersections and schools have canceled sports activities because buses could not get to and from playing fields.

China authorities are full of excuses to explain away the problem as “temporary.” What they do not mention is that Beijing car dealers are selling 2,000 new vehicles a day. More than half a million new cars have come onto the capital’s already dreadfully congested streets since the beginning of the year.

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The city has taken a few halfhearted steps. Officials tried to reduce traffic by 20 percent by banning cars from the roads for one day of the work week, depending on their license plate numbers. They even attempted to institute a car-free day.

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Eventually more must be done to curb automobile use, but it won’t be easy. Car ownership has become a human right to Beijing’s new middle class, and one the Chinese government seems to respect.

IN PICTURES: China's huge traffic jam