Private cars dominate the city's major links at rush hours even though most Hongkongers commute by public transport, a study has found.
In January, four students from the United States' Worcester Polytechnic Institute - Adria Fung, Mark Mantell, Derek Tsaknopolous and Ryan Welch - counted the number of vehicles on Connaught Road Central, Argyle Street in Mong Kok and Hennessy Road in Causeway Bay. They also observed traffic flow at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and eastern and western crossings.
The study found that the ratio of private cars to other vehicles on Connaught Road Central at peak hours was nearly double that at non-peak hours. On January 10, they counted 245 private cars at 8.50am - 65.3 per cent of total vehicles at the time. This compared with just 110 cars - or 34.9 per cent - at 1.20pm.
The situation at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel was similar, with 204 private cars - 66.2 per cent of all vehicles - at the Hung Hom entrance at 9.05am. The number dropped drastically to 39 cars just 10 minutes later, but grew again to 277 - or 73.3 per cent - at 6.20pm.
Government statistics show that 90 per cent of Hongkongers use public transport for their daily commutes. But the study found that buses accounted for just 1.7 to 7.4 per cent of the total traffic on Connaught Road Central, about 30 per cent in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, and 8.6 per cent to 20.2 per cent at the Hung Hom tunnel.
The students also observed that many buses were less than 20 per cent full. In some cases, bus stops for the same routes were too close to each other.
They said congestion on the road was contributing to air pollution, and the government should take more initiatives to reduce the number of cars by route rationalisation and implementation of tolls in high-traffic areas. Tolls in the three tunnels could be adjusted so that fewer cars would cross the harbour through the Hung Hom tunnel, they said.
Friends of the Earth's Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung said the statistics showed that the government should implement policies that would prioritise the use of roads by different vehicles. Options included electronic road charges, rush hour tolls and bus-only lanes, she said.
The government last month ruled out adjusting tunnel tolls, an idea suggested by consultants, after the idea failed to find support in a public consultation. Ministers say they will consider a pilot road-charging scheme.