Choking streets force Hanoi to mull ban on more vehicles from city center

By Doan Loan   September 19, 2016 | 11:07 pm PT
Choking streets force Hanoi to mull ban on more vehicles from city center
Hanoi’s transport authorities are aiming to reduce the number of individual vehicles and boost public transport instead. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
The only problem is the city's pulic transport system is sadly lacking.

Transport authorities are looking to reduce the number of private vehicles on the city's streets while improving public transport.

It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 6.2 million motorbikes in the city, and by 2025, Hanoi will have 1.3 million cars on the road, with the figure growing at an average of 17 percent per year.

“Traffic in Hanoi is just going to get more complicated in the next four to five years, so we really need a swift solution to the problem," said Mayor Nguyen Duc Chung.

The city plans to solve the problem step by step. The first step is to ban motorbikes from the city center during weekends and public holidays by 2020. The restriction is expected to expand to week days after a year.

Hanoi will impose a downtown traffic ban for non-residential motorbikes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. by 2021, and that will be expanded to the outskirts of the city by 2025.

Road tolls are also expected to divert private car drivers to other modes of transport.

However, passenger numbers on Hanoi's buses fell by 8.5 percent last year, according to Nguyen Cong Nhat, deputy head of the city’s largest bus operator Transerco.

Low-quality services are the reason for this fall in numbers, the Vietnam News Agency reported.

Nhat said that in countries like South Korea and Singapore, public buses and coaches operate on exclusive bus lanes, but in Hanoi, only a mere 1.3 kilometers of some 500 kilometers is dedicated to buses in the city.

Another issue appears to be the lack of bus stops. In theory, there should be a stop every 700-800m, but many residents kick up a fuss when a stop is planned outside their houses, so in reality, this isn't the case.

Hanoi’s Transport Department has laid out a map to develop a comprehensive public transport system by 2020, with investments in 600 new buses per year, three high-quality rapid transit bus routes and five elevated urban train routes.

By taking these steps, the city hopes people will be encouraged to leave their cars and motorbikes at home and switch to public transport or bicycles. However, Hanoi is still a long way from completing an effective public transport system.

Only 11 out of 83 bus routes in the city are run privately without financial support, according to Nguyen Trong Thong, chairman of the Hanoi Association of Public Transport.

“Hanoi grants subsidies based on the number of trips the buses make rather than the number of passengers they transport, so bus companies have no motivation to improve service quality,” Thong said.

Japanese transport experts said that the city should deploy e-tickets to monitor the number of passengers and calculate subsidies based on that.

Ticket prices have also remained at VND7,000-9,000 ($0.31 - $0.4) despite spiraling oil prices – another factor that is putting potential passengers off.

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