HCMC continues to beat the drum for minibuses

By Thuy Tien   January 22, 2021 | 12:00 am PT
HCMC continues to beat the drum for minibuses
A bus is stuck in traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
Public minibuses remain on HCMC’s agenda despite the government’s rejection of the proposal since most of its streets are narrow and the metro has been delayed.

Ha Ngoc Truong, vice chairman of the Vietnam Bridge and Road Association, called for trialling minibuses on the outskirts and the central area, which has many narrow alleys. "This [will] show the public the convenience of minibuses and indicate the demand for them."

In HCMC, 58 percent of streets are less than 10 meters wide and 85 percent of its population lives in narrow streets, but buses mainly operate on streets that are more than 10 meters wide.

This has caused people to shun buses and opt for private transport, seen as one of the main causes of congestion, air pollution and accidents.

Luong Hoai Nam, member of the HCMC Urban Transport Consulting Committee, said the city should operate various kinds of buses like many countries with a well developed public transport system do, including normal-sized ones, bus rapid transit and double-decker coaches.

For HCMC’s narrow streets, minibuses are mandatory, he said.

"While the metro is facing financial difficulties, the city should focus on developing small-capacity buses, improving the infrastructure and limiting private transportation to eliminate the use of motorbikes in the next 10-20 years.

"If there are no minibuses, the future metro system will not work efficiently because a lot of people do not live near the metro stations and cannot reach them without minibuses."

In 2017, HCMC first envisaged the proposal to operate buses with 12-17 seats to ensure every resident could access public transport. There were to be 30 routes served by a fleet of 350 minibuses including through alleys that were at least four meters wide.

They were to provide last mile transportation for people from and to major transport hubs including future metro stations, and transport students. There were to be stops every 200-500 meters to maximize passenger convenience.

Last year, the city's Department of Transport proposed a plan to launch six routes from District 1 to Districts 2, 7 and 9 to the Ministry of Transport, but the latter shot it down saying it flouted the 2008 Law on Road Traffic.

Now the department has again petitioned the city People's Committee to take it up with the government.

Despite much effort to enhance it, the quality of public transportation remains modest since the city has many narrow streets and alleys, it said.

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