HCMC keen on minibus plan

By Gia Minh   February 19, 2021 | 06:00 pm PT
HCMC keen on minibus plan
People get on a bus on Ham Nghi Street in HCMC's District 1, July 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ha Giang.
After a failed attempt last year, Ho Chi Minh City is once again seeking to run minibuses and so create greater public transport access.

In a proposal submitted to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the city said it wants to operate 12-17 seater minibuses on routes normal buses cannot navigate.

In July last year, the HCMC transport department had proposed the deployment of six minibus lines through the city’s industrial, urban areas and key traffic points.

The then proposal said minibuses would have a maximum 17 seats and no standing space, with tickets priced between VND10,000-40,000 ($0.43-1.74). The transportation firm would utilize a mobile app to sell tickets.

The Ministry of Transport, however, turned down the proposal, stating such minibuses do not meet current regulations, which stipulate buses must have at least 17 seats.

The city currently has 2,300 buses, mostly 41-60 seaters, operating on streets at least 10 meters wide.

But the city of nearly 5,000 streets in total has more than 3,400 routes of less than seven meters in width, which are impossible for its existing public buses to enter.

The lack of public bus services has forced people to rely on their private motorbikes, and, in recent years, app-based motorbike taxi services.

For this reason, the city has now submitted another plan on operating minibuses.

In its new plan, the city argues minibuses would provide better connection among residential areas, industrial areas, and areas where traffic infrastructure has yet to be developed thanks to their small size.

Minibuses would also transport people to metro stations and bigger bus hubs and thus, boost public transportation in the city.

HCMC targets public transport to carry 15 percent of commuters by 2025 and 25 percent in 2030, up from just 9.2 percent now, according to the municipal Department of Transport.

As planned, by 2022, the city would have 30 minibus routes linked with stations along metro line No. 1, completion of which had recently been pushed back to next year, and its first bus rapid transit line, set to complete in 2023.

From late 2018 to date, the city has repeatedly suspended public bus services due to a lack of passengers. It used to have 136 bus routes, with only 128 left.

Of the remainder, 91 are subsidized, costing the city an average VND1 trillion ($43.5 million) per year.

According to official data, an average 305 million passengers used public buses in HCMC back in 2012.

In the 2014-2018 period, the number of bus passengers in the city had dropped steadily by 6.6 percent yearly. In 2019, the decreasing ratio was 13 percent against 2018 to 229.6 million.

City officials said earlier public buses are luring fewer passengers due to increasing competition from ride-hailing services.

If ride-hailing firms served just 20.6 million passengers back in 2016, they transported as many as 191 million in 2019.

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