Hanoi should ensure exclusive bus lanes meet benchmarks before launch: expert

By Viet Anh   September 25, 2019 | 05:52 pm PT
Hanoi should ensure exclusive bus lanes meet benchmarks before launch: expert
A rapid transit bus is stuck between cars on To Huu Street, Hanoi, September 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Hai.
Hanoi needs to determine the efficacy of exclusive bus lanes before actually creating them, Ho Quoc Chinh of the University of Sydney says.

He was referring to the proposal by the city administration to designate exclusive lanes for bus as part of efforts to increase the rate of commuters using public transport to 25 percent by 2020.

The current bus system was insufficient to meet the needs of its eight million population, but exclusive lanes for buses were just a small cog in urban planning, the lecturer from the university's Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies told VnExpress.

"Hanoi is struggling to figure out what to do with the spaces reserved for public transportation. If someone asked me what would be the most optimal way to use [those spaces], I would not have an answer. What Hanoi needs right now is a strategic vision for traffic management."

Traffic congestion was a common issue in most cities in the world, and people always opted for a vehicle that best met their needs. Chinh said two major factors needed to be considered to ensure a bus system was effective and determine the best traffic model to follow.

Firstly, Hanoi needs to create a set of concrete performance indicators to determine the effectiveness of a bus system before deploying it. Those indicators ought to factor in population density, targeted passengers, their needs, budgets, and the end goal of the bus system (reducing traffic jams, travel times, costs, or pollution).

"All those factors need to be considered before starting a bus line, and they need to be evaluated a year after the bus line goes into operation."

Authorities could employ modern technologies like geographic information systems to get more accurate statistics.

Secondly, an efficient bus system in a city with a high percentage of private vehicles should ensure convenience (short walking distance to bus stations) and consistent and punctual departure and arrival schedules.

Prioritizing certain lanes for buses to reduce congestion should not be done for the whole day, but only during certain hours. For instance, between 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. people could be encouraged to use buses while other personal vehicles could be restricted.

Authorities could also create parking lots and employ taxi-hailing services at the beginning and end of bus routes so that passengers did not need to resort to personal vehicles.

Metro, rapid buses as support

Metro lines and rapid bus transits should not be considered the backbone of Hanoi's transportation system, but they could support it, Chinh said.

"While waiting for such systems, which tended to be expensive, to be developed, the capital should stick to investing in smaller transport networks which cost less."

But Walter Edgar Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences thought otherwise, saying metro lines and rapid bus transits, while expensive, could carry many more passengers and were highly reliable.

He was in favor of them being the backbone of a city's transportation system, adding that discussing them was more important than discussing normal bus systems.

Normal bus systems might be able to handle shorter distances, but not in a city with high transportation needs that was frequently congested like Hanoi, Theseira said.

Vietnam should manage the number of personal vehicles in circulation like Singapore. Building new roads to support the growing number of personal vehicles was not feasible since it would only serve to increase the need for personal vehicles, he said.

Without proper management, the number of personal vehicles would skyrocket, Theseira warned.

Hanoi currently has only one route reserved for public buses, starting from the Long Bien bus station to the intersection of Thanh Nien, Nghi Tam and Yen Phu streets, and another bus rapid transit route between Kim Ma in Ba Dinh District and Yen Nghia in Ha Dong District.

The city's 2,000 buses carry around 1.2 million passengers every day, accounting for 12 percent of all commuters.

Experts have warned the city is not ready for exclusive bus lanes owing to its poor infrastructure.

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