A high level of non-compliance with policies aimed to protect common pool resources including the road system necessitates investigation into motivations behind compliance so that policies could be tailored to raise compliance level. The long-held instrumental theory emphasizing the dependence of compliance on tangible deterrence measures fails to adequately explain empirical findings. More recently established compliance models incorporate normative, instrumental, and image factors as motivations for compliance. This paper establishes the prime importance of normative and image motivations over the instrumental motivation to comply with common pool resource protection policy in the realm of transportation. The discovery of normative and image motivations as primary factors for compliance helps policymakers improve policy design to protect common pool resources like the roads. Moreover, this paper establishes the significance of local residency status (in the form of hukou) in both in compliance itself and through modulating motivations for compliance. Through a case study of Shanghai’s license plate auction policy intended to inhibit car growth, this study utilizes data from a survey (n = 1,389) of attitudes toward the policy and compliance as well as actual behavior. The discovery of normative and image motivations as primary factors for complying with transportation policy provides effective alternatives to conventional policy instruments. The results showing that local residents comply because of both normative and instrumental motivations whereas migrants comply only because of instrumental motivation adds the dimension of residency status to the compliance model and calls for further examination of the impact of social stratification established by residency status.