Half of Beijing's drivers left their cars at home today and took public transportation on the first workday under new restrictions meant to clear the city's notoriously polluted skies before the Olympics. Under the plan that kicked in yesterday, half of the capital's 3.3 million cars will be removed from city streets each day, alternating odd and even license plates. Those caught driving on days they shouldn't will be fined $14, a pricey penalty even for China's capital.
In most areas, crowds remained surprisingly manageable, perhaps because employers were asked to stagger work schedules, and public institutions opened an hour later than normal. Traffic still snaked along main thoroughfares and highways, but it moved at a steady pace. "Before we would be at a dead standstill," said one taxi driver. "Now it's better." Two new subway lines and an airport rail link were opened over the weekend.