Car Ownership Surging in Beijing

The number of registered cars in Beijing jumped to 2 million last month, doubling in just six years. Now one in five households in the Chinese capital owns a car, a huge shift from the situation a decade ago, when most cars were owned by the government and the city’s residents were more likely to have a run-in with a horse-drawn cart than a motorized vehicle. Along with the surge in car ownership has come traffic congestion and increased pollution — this in a city already notorious for having some of the worst air quality in the world. The government has pledged to spend $12 billion to clean up Beijing’s air and water before the city hosts the 2008 Olympics, but in the coming years it also plans to build 900 miles of new roads to accommodate the 3.5 million cars that Beijing residents are expected to own by then.