The world’s largest cities are resorting to tough love to reduce traffic congestion and pollution, according to UBC urban planning and transportation expert Jinhua Zhao.

Zhao points to Shanghai which auctions off only about 10,000 car registrations each month. To get on the road, residents in China’s largest city of 23 million people must bid on vehicle license plates. Depending on the number of bidders, each license can cost as much as 60,000 yuan ($10,000 CDN).

And while residents complain about the cost, they have accepted the policy and are more concerned about the fairness and transparency of revenue use, says Zhao.

“Not only do these auctions help to reduce congestion, they provide a financing tool. Shanghai generates up to $5 billion yuan ($0.8 billion CDN) annually in revenue,” says Zhao, who serves as a commissioner for the China Planning Network, a think tank focused on China’s urbanization. He will discuss these and other strategies at next month’s annual conference for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“If you look at any of the great cities in the world, people have asked themselves ‘where do we want to be in 20 years’ and then found a way forward,” says Jinhua Zhao, an assistant professor jointly appointed in the Dept. of Civil Engineering and at the School of Community and Regional Planning.

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