Commuters crowd a subway train on July 21, 2008 in Beijing, China.
Commuters crowd a subway train on July 21, 2008 in Beijing, China. - 
Listen To The Story
Marketplace

Beijing has announced it will add 50 miles of subway track by the end of next year, making the city's subway system bigger than New York's. But will the new additions alleviate the city's notorious traffic and pollution?

Just five years ago, the Beijing subway system was 70 miles long. Today it’s nearly four times that. But economics professor Zhao Jian at Beijing’s Jiaotong University says it’s going to take more than hundreds of miles of subway lines to solve Beijing’s traffic problem.

"The key to alleviating traffic and pollution in Beijing is to raise the cost of owning and using cars," says Zhao. "As it stands, parking fees are very low and traffic tickets aren’t that expensive. This needs to change."

A few years ago, a section of highway in Beijing had a traffic jam that lasted ten days. This year, levels of air pollution in Beijing were the worst on record. Zhao says that’s thanks -- in part -- to cheap cars and cheaper license plates.

In Shanghai, on the other hand, a license plate typically costs as much as the car itself. And that’s meant Shanghai, which has a bigger, more affluent population than Beijing, has half as many cars and is often spared Beijing’s persistent toxic haze.

 

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Rob Schmitz at @rob_schmitz