Superficial Fairness of Beijing's Vehicle License Lottery Policy

TitleSuperficial Fairness of Beijing's Vehicle License Lottery Policy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationSubmitted
AuthorsZhao J, Wang S
JournalJournal of American Planning Association
KeywordsAutomobile ownership, Equity, Immigrants, Justice, Mobility, policy transfer

The challenges that result from rising auto ownership in developing nations are undeniable. One way of meeting these challenges on the demand side is to restrict auto ownership. But the specifics of these restrictions determine who gains and loses from the policy. This paper examines the equity implications of Beijing’s car license lottery, implemented in 2011. It evaluates equity in the car license lottery policy both qualitatively through the review of policy documents, and quantitatively via a survey of public perception towards different equity dimensions. An equity framework is developed that covers three categories: (1) classic equity dimensions such as spatial equity and revenue transfer from car owners to non-car owners; (2) unique equity dimensions specific to China’s context; and (3) policy loopholes that contravene (1) and (2). While this policy is aimed directly at addressing equity issues, it disadvantages the 36.8% of the population who are migrants, advantages the 4.26 million prior car owners, and does not distinguish based on mobility needs at the residential location. It raises no revenue, and thus has no means to correct for equity implications between drivers and non-drivers. Its inefficiencies result in divorcing the need for a car from the ability to have one is only compounded by lack of transparency and public perception of corruption. In short, while the policy is effective in controlling the growth of automobiles in Beijing, the policy effort in addressing equity is incomplete. We conclude that a renewed focus on the differential impacts of policies that restrict car ownership – including dimensions unique to each cities context – will help ensure that these necessary measures are more than superficially equitable.