The central government pledged to relieve pressure on the nation's congested roads by supporting the development of environmentally friendly urban transport systems and encouraging measures that may include a ban on parking in some areas.
The government will provide tax breaks and fuel subsidies for mass-transit vehicles and increase the use of special lanes to help boost the use of public transport to about 60 per cent of all urban travel, according to a statement by the State Council posted on the central government's website.
As many as 300 million people will move from the countryside by 2030 to join the 600 million already living in the cities, according to estimates by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Traffic congestion and worsening pollution are forcing the government to improve urban public transport to cope with the influx.
"As China's urbanisation accelerates, the development of urban transport faces new challenges," the State Council said in its statement. The government "must prioritise the development of public transit systems to ease traffic congestion, transform urban transport, improve people's quality of life and improve the provision of public services".
The number of private passenger vehicles in China was 62.4 million at the end of 2011, a sevenfold increase on the 8.45 million at the end of 2003, according to National Bureau of Statistics data. The number of cars may surpass 200 million by 2020, Xinhua reported on July 31, citing the Ministry of Transport.
The State Council's statement fleshes out a broad policy guideline issued in October to support the transport goals in the nation's current five-year plan, which runs through 2015.
The State Council said it aimed to make public services the dominant form of transport in urban areas and boost the use of electric vehicles such as buses and trams in addition to rail transit. It will also encourage the development of smart cards and mobile payment systems.
Initiatives such as increasing the use of vehicle rental and better taxi-booking facilities will be supported, it said.
In downtown areas, there should be a bus stop every 500 metres and special shuttle services, including airport and school buses, will be allowed to use public transport lanes, the State Council said.
The statement did not provide details about the financing of any initiatives, how public-transport companies and local governments can fund projects or how much the tax breaks and subsidies will cost the government. The State Council did say it would encourage local providers to attract strategic investors, and raise private capital through trusts and equity investments.