The number of Chinese travelers hitting the highways soared to 85 million by Sunday afternoon, in part because, for the first time in more than a decade, tolls were waived on most expressways for passenger cars.
The announcement of the new policy was initially applauded by private-car owners.
But from the early-morning hours on the first day of the holiday, highway travelers around the country reported traffic jams and gridlock, many by posting announcements and photos on their Weibo accounts. Photos have been circulating around the Internet of people playing tennis, doing pushups, walking their dogs, and commiserating with other drivers and passengers on the highways while they waited for traffic to clear.
Around Chengdu, traffic was backed up 4 km, affecting traffic along the city's Third Ring Road. A Chongqing man reported moving 8 km in more than two-and-a-half hours before being able to pass through the toll booth on the Chengnan Expressway.
In Guangzhou, drivers reported spending 50 minutes to move 1 km.
One worker in Qingdao whose job it was to issue tickets at the tollbooth to all drivers started vomiting after issuing moer than 1,400 tickets non-stop.
Several critics have publicly taken the holiday toll waiver to task. An editorial in the Beijing News published yesterday says that the policy should be adjusted and that the traffic jams were hardly an unexpected result of the policy.
"We are making a world record of stupidity by launching this policy," remarked director of the Center for China in the World Economy at Tsinghua University Li Daokui on Weibo.