City of Richmond—Arterial Road Policy


As one of the biggest cities in Canada, Richmond has been under increasing population pressure for a long time. Along with population pressure, many issues arise. Among these issues are rising housing price and transportaiton inefficiency. As one of the major ways of dealing with these problems, densification along its arterial roads policy has been permitted by the City in 1999. Ever since then, the City has tried to revise and improve the policy over the years, while the argument about this policy never ceaces.


Canada has one of the highest levels of urbanization in the world. Approxiamate 80% of Canada’s population are living in cities and towns.[1] Richomond, as one of the largest cities in Canada, has been facing the same situation. Housing intense and transportation inefficiency are two by-products of such population inflation. In response to these problems, the City of Richmond chose to use densification as a way to provide more affordable accommodations while improving the transportaiton efficiency. In 1999, the City officially permitted the densification along its arterial roads policy. And the City has reviewed and refined this policy over the years,including as part of the 2041 Official Community Plan(OCP) Update.[2]

What the arterial roads policy is

The objective of the policy is to “direct appropriate development onto certain arterial roads outside the City Centre”[3]. To be berief, the policy mainly incorporates two parts. One is to strenthen the level of investiment on public transit system in designated arterial road areas. Another is to increase the density of houses along the arterial roads by compacting lots of single-family houses with multi-family houses. The idea is not difficult to understand, because compared with a multi-family house, a single-family house usually occupy much larger land, which is not land-saving.

The areas covered by the policy is shown on the picture below[4](ALR is the abbreviation of Agricultural Land Reserve):

According to the population census conducted by the government of canada in 2012[5], it can be estimated that nearly 40% of total population lives in the affected areas.

Distributional effects and effectiveness in general

There has been two opposite voices since the day the policy was disigned. People who support the policy claim that urban land is not infinite and creating dense neighborhoods with multi-use development was the only option left for us. Compared with low density neighhoods, high density neighhoods are less car-dependent and hence much more envionmentally sustainable. Besides, high density neighborhoods are more lively and vibrant. We can combine mutiple styles of housing with commercial space and public space as well[6]. The move is aslo the part of an effort to alleviate affordable housing issues for low and middle-income families in the city, for multi-family housing tends to be less expensive.

Meanwhile, some people hold opinions highly against such policy. They claim that “ the decision to allow granny flats and coach houses to be built in residential Richmond is the beginning of the end for the city’s neighbourhoods.”[7] They said that the governent should have considered the feelings of the residents more before forcing the policy to go into effect. For one thing, many neighhoods of the City don’t’s have corresponding infrastructure, like community centers and schools, to deal with extra population. And the policy may lead to traffic congestion on some certain roads. For the increasing housing demand issue, they point out that this can be solved by finding a new place, like Langley, where housing development is built to cater solely to low-income families.


The policy has been released for years, while its implementation process proceeded slow because of the frequent protest from the residents and some politicians. Despite many potential benefits that can come from the policy, it seems like an another lively drama of “not in my backyard” is on show. As for me, I believe densification is an good choice to handle urbanlization issue, because this method has been proved by many cities in the world to be effective. However, I think it is better to think twice before jumping into this “city-rebuiding” project. For every city has its unique history and style, one successful model of a city may not applied to other cities. Just like the opponents say, we should calculate the potential benefits, but we also have to consider the potential cost from many different perspectives.


[1]  Densification. TRAC Tenant Resource & Advisory Center.

[2]  City of Richmond Policy Planning Devision. Arterial Road Policy.

[3]  City of Richmond Policy Planning Devision. Specifi c Policies and Guidelines.

[4]  City of Richmond Policy Planning Devision. Residential Redevelopment Along Richmond’s Arterial Roads.

[5]  Population Hot Facts.

[6]  Dylan King, Richmond News. Cities need densification

[7]  Alan Campbell, Richmond News. Densification destroys neighbourhoods


Alleviate Traffic Congestion in Beijing


If you often drive in Beijing, you are not supposed to feel surprised if your car gets stuck in the street for more than 2 hours almost everyday. However, traffic in Beijing was not that terrible in the past. This problem showed up in 1990s and became serious after the city entered 21st century. There are many factors leading to this problem, including historical and economic reasons, etc. Bejing has been planning to alleviate the congestion for a long time. In 2011, a series of new policies were put into effect. But it looks like these policies are not very effective when looking at Beijing’s traffic today.

The Story


All of these orginated from the rapid growing ecomomy in China. During 1990s, the yearly growing rate of vehicles in Beinig had been kept between 10% to 15% . According to the research from other countries, it is common for normal families to have private cars when GDP per capita reaches $3000. Since GDP per capita in Beijing already reached $3000 in 2001[1]there is no surprise that the number of cars in Beijing has been continuing increasing at an explosive rate since the beginning of 21st century.

Compared to the rate of car increase, the speed of road construction is apparently slower. Besides, the road distribution, in many parts of Beijing, is not well designed. The blog is usually so big that a car has to go a very long distance before hitting a cross. Moreover, the public transport in Beijing is not well distributed. Some bus routes are largely overlapped, while some others, where there are great needs for public transport, have only a few buses go down. Hence, the undisirable public transport in Beijing has been pushing people to drive by themselves.

As the congestion became more and more serious, the government gradually realized they must do something different to solve this problem. I use “something different” instead of “something”, because there was one method that had been used all along by the government: Build more roads. Obviously, this method can not prevent the situation from becoming worse. After successfully got selected as the host of Olympic of 2008, to solve traffic congestion in Beijing was officially put on the government’s agenda. Several corresponding policies were made before the 2008 Olympics. In the end of 2010, the government made some new policies and revised the original ones at the same time. These new policies officially went into effect at the very beginnin of 2011. And they are what I am going to introduce to you on this blog..

What Policies and how they are supposed to work

These policies all fall into three categories. The government mouthpiece used three words to conclude them: Establishment, Management and Restriction[2].


Not only should more roads be built, but also more infrastructure, like schools, hospitals, super markets, would be constructed correspondingly in satellite towns of Beijing, which, the government believe, would share population and vehicle pressure with Beijing city. At the same time, buses and other public transport would be upgraded.


Parking fees in different areas of Beijing would be adjusted to reflect the traffic flow and parking management would be improved as well. Artificial Intelligence equipment would be largely used on public transport. And the performance of each level of government in traffic management would be incorporated into the official performance assessment. Congestion fees might also be charged if necessary.


There would be no increase in the quota for government-use vehicles and these vehicles would be more strictly managed. A monthly quota would be set up and people or organizations that were willing to have new cars should apply for a candidate number first. Under the strict supervision, these candidate numbers would be randomly chosen by computer monthly until the maximum of the quota is reached. Moreover, when there were big events or festivals going on, or the weather condition was severely bad, whether a car can hit the road or not would depend on the parity of the last number on its plate board. The government also called that non-native cars would not allowed to enter inside the 5th Ring Road during rush hours (7:00-9:00am and 17:00-20:00pm)

(The picture is sceenshoted from Google Map. The red circle is the 5th Ring Road in Beijing.)


As you can see, these policies are all correlated. Theoretically, this policy package would alleviate the traffic congestion. Since the policy package has just been implementated for 1 year, I cannot find any corresponding effectiveness analysis articles. However, according to my friends in Beijing, they told me the condition now seems a litter better, but just a litter. One possible reason they told me is that these policies are only effective to the not-rich people. Those who have big money don’t care to pay extra 10 RMB for parking. What is more, rich people can always get ways to have new cars as long as they want. Many families have more than one cars, so they can drive everyday despite of the parity of the plate number restriction. For the not-rich people, they usually live in the suburbs because they cannot afford the rent in the city center. Since the public transport is not attractive to them, they have to be the car commuters. These fees and restrictions may change nothing but just to make their situation worse. Another reason I can think of is that it may take a longer time to construct the satellite towns of Beijing. Most of the infrastructure cannot be built up just in one year time. Hence, if things go well, we should expect to see the congestion alleviated in 5 years, because, after all, the population pressure is the root of the traffic congestion in Beijing.


What Beijing did may take more time to show the effect. Perhaps the government needs to consider more about the social welfare distribution effect of such policy package.



[1] The Analysis of The Policy of Traffic Congestion Alleviation in Beijing. Available at

[2] Some Suggetions for Traffic Congestion Alleviation in Beiing. Available at


China’s Ecotax in the Future


Just like the title of this article implies, technically, up until now, China doesn’t have ecotax. The absence of ecotax directly results from China’s old planed economy system and is also largely affected by the China’s current economic and political situation. However, to levy such tax is an indispensible part of China’s free market reform and is an essential step to keep China’s deteriorated environment from worsening further.

The government of China has been doing research on ecotax for a long time. According to the premier Wen’s Government Work Report of 2011, China is going to offically levy ecotax during its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015).

The Story


The government of China started planing to levy ecotax since 2005. This work has been in research stage for a very long time until 2011, after premier Wen announced in his Government Work Report that China was going to have ecotax in the next five years, which was a symbol that China’s ecotax plan had come into the legislative stage.

As you may already know, China is a country where govenment power is highly concentrated in one party and all the other parties and organizations have to cooperate with the government. So it is not difficult to understand that the government of China is the absolute major designer and implementor in this entire process of levying ecotax. As an essential part of the free market reform and an necessary step to protect the not optimistic environment in China, the government has to learn from the developed countries in the western world and make its own ecotax policy.

What It Was in the Past

It is not true that China never asked polluters to pay for their pollution before 2011. Actually, instead of tax, China has been using the method of charging fine for almost 30 years. As you can see, it is more like a administrative mean than economic mean. In addition, this method only charges the discharges that exceed national or local standards, which makes the base of fine very small. Besides, the charege rate is very low—much lowering than abataement cost. And a large portion of the revenue collected is given back to the polluter companies to help them install abatement equipment. Off cource, these measures do not have a strong effect on polluter. The environment in China continues going worse.

But like other developing countries, China seems to have no other options, beause worry always exists on politicians’ mind that a stricter and larger charge on pollutes would have a good change to make domestic companies less competitive and impedes the development of domestic industries. Hence, to some degree, it is a tradeoff between the evironment and economy. And the government of China chose the latter one.

What Is Going To Happen

Well, to be honest, everything is still uncertain now. The detailed policy has not published yet. However, a thing that we have already known is that the news of this upcoming ecotax has been causing many concerns and arguments. There are four aspects that have been paid most attention to.

1) Tax Base

How will the pollute be measured? Will the tax be put on input level, output level or directly on the pollutes? Who will be the designer of this base, State Administration of Taxation or Ministry of Environmental Protection?

2) Tax Rate

The best tax rate should be equal to the marginal damage per unit of pollute made to the environment. However, since China’s domestic industries are still not fully developed and the levels of development across China is highly imbalanced geographically, a high tax rate probabily would have a suppressing effect on development of many industries and companies, while a low tax rate is likely to be ignored by the polluters.

3) Tax Range

Take car industry as an example. Will the tax be imposed on producers or consumers? Will official vehicles and private vehicles have the same tax standard? Will the standard be based on quantity or mileage?

4) Revenue Allocation

Will the revenue be accumulated as earmarked fund for environment protection or be counted into general budget? Will the finance department be in charge of all of the revenue collected or the revenue will be shared with other departments?


Although the ecotax has not been imposed yet, it is well known that the government of China has been doing its research on ecotax for a long time and is determined to levy such a tax within five years. Tax base, tax rate, tax range and revenue allocation are four things that have been mostly concerned.


  1. China is going to levy ecotax in its 12th Five-Year Plan. Here
  2. The Ture Cost of Coal in China. Here
  3. Environmental Taxes in OECD Here

Air Pollution in China

Lately, the air condition in the mid and east parts of China deteriorates. Take Beijing, the capital of China, for example, the city is currently suffering a severe haze when I’m writting this blog. It is the fourth time such weather condition dominates Beijing within this month. According to the investigation, pollutants emitted by industrial plants and automobiles are the major reason. People in Beijing have to wear gauze masks when they go out recently.

Since the economic reform in 1978, the economy of China has been growing at an amazing rate every year. Most people in China have got better accommodation, food and income. But one thing that cannot be denied is that in the process of economic development, the environment in China has been deteriorating all the time. Since more and more Chinese start to realize that environment can affect their quality of life substantially, they’ve been caring much more about the air and water condition. Accordingly, the government of China has been paying an increasing attention to the environment. A lot of evironmental-friendly policies have been made and went into effect, because the govenment gradually knows that if the situation of the deteriorating environment is not controled, it can eventually swallow all the progress made by lauching the ecomomic reform.

Yes, we want a beautiful China. Just as the vice premier of China, Li Keqiang, said to the journalists: New policies must be made and further measures must be taken to solve the environmental problems.

Picture Reference: