Managing Cars

Managing Cars in China

China’s astronomical growth in automobile conceals significant variations between cities. While Shanghai and Beijing each had about 2 million motor vehicles in 2004, by 2010 Beijing has 4.8 million and Shanghai only 3.1 million. Vehicle owners made up 38% of Beijing households in 2011 in contrast to 18% in Shanghai. Crucial historical and present policy differences influence their effectiveness, revenue, efficiency, equity, and public acceptance. Two decades ago Shanghai opted for a monthly license auction to control vehicle ownership, while Beijing had little control over usage or ownership until the 2008 Olympics. Shanghai’s active and early policy intervention helps explain the difference in ownership growth.

Extraordinary growth calls for extraordinary measures. Boldness in both infrastructure development and policy design seems commonplace in China's urban transportation arena. This project, however, aims to present some of the subtleties in these bold designs using Shanghai license auction policy and Beijing's license lottery policy as a case. Subtleties exist in public attitude towards government policies, in the pricing mechanism and revenue consequences, in the purposeful policy leakage, and in the contrasting equity and efficiency orientations. 

Part I: Evolving Demand Drivers

  • Campbell, R. and J. Zhao (2013) Prestige on Wheels: Beijinger Life Aspirations and Implications for Transportation Planning, Transportation Research Board 92nd Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. 
  • Zhan Zhao and Jinhua Zhao (2014) Car Pride: Psychological Structure and Behavioral Implications, working paper

Part II: Three Models: Experiments by Chinese Cities

  • Tracy Chen and Jinhua Zhao (2013)  "Bidding to DriveCar License Auction Policy in Shanghai and Its Public Acceptance", Transport Policy, doi: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2012.11.016
  • Zhao, J., T. Chen and D. Block-Schachter (2013) Superficial Fairness: Beijing’s License Lottery as a Pathway towards an Acceptable Car Deterring Policy (TRB2014)
  • Zhao, J., and Xiaoyun Chang (2014) Impossible Elasticity: Behavioral Economics Experiment in the Hybrid Car Licensing in Guangzhou, working paper
  • Jinhua Zhao and David Block-Schachter (2013) Lotteries vs. Auctions: China’s Experiments in Managing Automobile Growth, Asia Pacific Memo #215 Apr 2013

Part III: Three Issues: Commonality in Transportation Policy Making

Public acceptance and interactive policy-making

  • Zhao, J. and T. Chen (2013) Car Owners as Supporting Constituency for Car Deterring Policies: Preference Variations in Shanghai’s Car Licensing Policy, Transportation Research Board 92nd Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.
  • Castro, M. and J. Zhao (2014) Price as a Signal for Policy Fine-tuning: A Time-Series Model of Shanghai's License Auction, Transport Policy, submitted in Aug 2014
  • Zhao, J., J. Wang, T. Chen, and W. Xu (2013) Hybrid Model in Guangzhou: A Before-and-After Comparison of Public Attitude


  • T. Chen and J. Zhao (2013) Shanghai’s Non-local Vehicles as A Dilemma in Policy Transfer from Singapore, Transportation Research Board 92nd Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.
  • Zhao, J., D. Block-Schachter and T. Chen (2014) Purposeful Policy Leakage: Legitimacy and Intentionality of Non Local Vehicles in Shanghai, working paper

Policy Transfer and Mobility

  • Zhao, J. and Z. Wang (2013) Formation of Transportation Policy Market in China: From Policy Transfer to Policy Mobility (TRB2014)

Part IV: Eventuality of Car Managment Policies

  • Urban Mobility in 2050
  • The 4th Model: Policy Recommendations for 600+ cities in 1994, 2011 and 2013
  • Policy Adaptation: Policy Recommendation for existing cities 

[Image: Chang'an avenue in Beijing by Australian Cowboy]