BEIJING, 9 MAY 2007–Leave it to Communist China to take a distinctly capitalist approach to addressing traffic congestion. The Beijing Transportatin Information Center, a municipal government agency, has developed an innovative GPS system for tracking traffic congestion and then letting traveling consumers decide what they want to do about it! GPS chips have been put in 10,000 taxis throughout the city. Every five seconds, real time traffic information is uploaded to the internet. Travelers can see if their route is congested. Then, they can input their point of origin and point of destination, and the web site will calculate their fastest and most alternative efficient route! In other words, they are trying to facilitate automobility rather than impede it! The BTIC is now looking for private partners to apply the technology broadly by getting it to every cell phone user in the city. In other words, they recognize the role the private sector plays in effectively deploying the technology and ensuring it has the best chance to work.
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.