License Plate Lottery

License plates are a hot commodity in Beijing these days. Photo from Caijing Magazine

This is a story that can only happen in China, and it point out the unique challenges facing China’s development and the unique solutions the government comes up with to deal with them.

The Beijing government has started conducting a monthly lottery for the right to drive a car in the city. From China Daily:

The lottery gave the green light to 17,600 people, out of 187,420 qualified applicants, almost one in 11, to hit Beijing’s busy roads.

More than 210,000 people had earlier applied for the 20,000 number plates available monthly under the measures announced in December. But more than 22,700 were disqualified.

Nearly 90 percent of the number plates available monthly are allocated to residents. The remaining plates are given to businesses operating in the capital.

The lottery – broadcast live on television and the Internet – started at 10 am at the Beijing municipal transport commission.

The 20-minute event was supervised by representatives of the applicants, statisticians and transport officials to “ensure openness, fairness and equity”, said Zhou Zhengyu, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing municipal government.

When the lottery was announced in December there was a huge rush on car dealerships with pre-registered plates and huge lines at government licensing offices as people tried to sneak in before the new limits.

But the lottery is only the most flashy part of a broader attempt to control traffic congestion. Taxes on vehicle ownership and gas as well, as increased fines and limiting access to some areas of major cities, also went into effect this month.

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