BEIJING, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Beijing commuters using public transport now outnumber those using private cars, according to the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications.
The latest figures from the committee on Wednesday show 34.5 percent of the city's commuters now choose public transport, beating for the first time since figures were first recorded in 2001/2 the number of people opting for private vehicles, which made up 32 percent of the total.
The increase comes in the wake of the city government's decision to spend one billion yuan (about 1.33 million U.S. dollars) a year slashing subway and bus fares. Subway fares have been cut by 30 percent.
Since Oct. 7, when the price cut took effect, the daily average of the city's subway passenger volume has reached 2.48 million, up 910,000 from the daily average of the previous nine months this year, according to the figures.
About half of the increased traffic was due to the No. 5 subway line, which was opened to commuters also on Oct. 7.
The other half came from the four existing lines. Each of them posted 33 to 50 percent increases in their passenger volumes, compared with the figures in the first nine months of the year.
In 2005 a total of 28.1 percent of commuters made their journeys to work by public transport. This had risen to 30.2 per cent in April this year.
Currently, Beijing has five subway lines in operation, with a total length of 142 kilometers. The city will have nine lines totaling 200 km by 2008, and 19 lines totaling 561.5 km by 2020.
Beijing, a city with a population of 17 million and more than 3 million registered vehicles, has been trying to boost public transit to ease traffic pressure and improve air quality ahead of the 2008 Olympics.
The capital has staged a slew of measures, including improving public transport structure, slashing bus fares by 60 percent for residents since the beginning of this year and imposing temporary car bans.
The city's public transport system now carries 15 million commuters every day, and the number is expected to rise to 28 million people in 2012. The city aims to raise the proportion of people commuting on public transit to 50 percent by then.