Design changes caused Hanoi bus rapid transit failure: World Bank

By Son Ha   July 13, 2022 | 04:45 pm PT
Design changes caused Hanoi bus rapid transit failure: World Bank
Motorbikes encroach into a BRT-exclusive lane in Hanoi, June 28, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
Hanoi's BRT line failed to attract as many passengers as it should have because its design was changed from the original plan, according to World Bank Vietnam.

The Kim Ma-Yen Nghia BRT line, which received funding and other assistance from the World Bank, has not been able to meet expectations even after six years in operation. Critics have said that it has failed to attract enough passengers, give the city's public transport system a boost, or reduce congestion.

However, Shigeyuki Sakaki, a Senior Urban Transport Specialist working with the World Bank's Transport and ICT Global Practice, said that while the BRT has failed to meet its target regarding the number of passengers, it has become a foundation for a new form of public transport with higher standards than normal buses.

"We should not evaluate the effectiveness of the BRT based solely on the fact that it has its own lane. We need to evaluate it as a vehicle for those who don't want to or cannot use personal vehicles. Besides the fact that it is more environmentally friendly, the BRT plays an important role in the planning for Hanoi's traffic networks until 2030, where public transport would account for 50-55 percent of transportation needs. Right now, the rate is around 12 percent," he said.

On why Hanoi's BRT line has failed to meet expectations, Sakaki said he believed the reason has to do with the fact that its design and operation had been changed from the original plan.

Hanoi was supposed to have two BRT lines running a total of 23 km, instead of one of 14.7 km that is in operation now. The current line includes a 2.5 km road section where there's no exclusive lane. The original design for the project had an exclusive lane for the BRT, a physical barricade and warning signs to keep other vehicles out.

The lack of synchronicity between public transport networks is also a reason why the BRT has not been able to reach its true potentials. The BRT by itself cannot meet all transport demands because it can't cover all destinations in the city.

Even today, other vehicles are still trespassing into the BRT exclusive lane and the fines for this violation aren't strong enough. Furthermore, the BRT does not have an automatic ticket system yet, authorities haven't used a priority light system for the BRT as per the original design, Sakaki said.

On whether the BRT would be scrapped because it is deemed ineffective, Sakaki said the decision was for the Hanoi People's Committee to make.

He stressed, however, that the BRT was still a superior form of public transport to normal buses, and the model has been successful in many countries as a staple form of public transport.

He said that Hanoi should continue making the BRT usable and convenient, for example by increasing the number of rides, using exclusive lanes and increasing connectivity with normal bus and metro lines. The capital should also plan land plots for the BRT and the metro, becoming the basis for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) model for city planning, he added.

Hanoi can also continue to use the BRT because the metro can only transport people along main traffic routes, and only buses and the BRT can get people to exactly where they want, Sakaki noted.

He said that the time and money required to finish a metro was much higher than a BRT, so the latter remained an appropriate form of public transport for Hanoi for now.

The World Bank will gladly support the Hanoi People's Committee in efforts to make the BRT achieve its true potential, Sakaki said.

"As what other countries have experienced, an effective public transport system must be friendly, meaning people can easily use the BRT, the metro, the buses anytime and anywhere. There would be more lanes for pedestrians and bikers, and there would be more bus and metro stations. People can gain access to public transport safely, conveniently and cheaply, to the point that they feel even more satisfied to use public transport than personal vehicles," he said.

Sakaki added that Hanoi should also implement more measures to limit the use of personal vehicles, including parking restrictions in downtown areas and emission taxation. Restricting vehicles from entering downtown areas during peak hours will also be a step in the right direction, he added.

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