HCMC streets become de facto pickup spots for sleeper buses

By Gia Minh   November 17, 2022 | 07:04 pm PT
Several streets in HCMC's inner area are being used by sleeper buses to pick up passengers who find this arrangement convenient, but at the expense of traffic order and safety.

On Tuesday afternoon, four sleeper buses stood in a line on Hung Vuong Street in District 5, waiting for passengers, although they are not allowed to do so.

They kept their engines running, their doors open, and their turn signals flashing. all the things to avoid being fined for illegal parking.

After waiting for around one hour, several passengers boarded the buses and they left for their destinations, including the south-central province of Binh Thuan and the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang.

Sleeper buses Xe khách các hãng Cúc Phương, Hải Duyên, đậu thành hai hàng trên đường Nguyễn Duy Dương, quận 5, chờ gòm khách giữa tháng 11. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh

Sleeper buses stop along Nguyen Duy Duong Street in District 5 in in HCMC's District 5 in November, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh

While they parked illegally on the street to pick up passengers, the buses occupied two of the street's three lanes, causing congestion on the remaining lane.

A similar situation prevailed around 300m away on a section of Nguyen Duy Duong Street, with several sleeper buses waiting to pick up passengers and luggage before leaving for Dong Nai Province, which borders HCMC, and Tien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta.

The buses had more than 30 seats each and occupied more than half of the street’s width while bus operators plied their trade on the sidewalk.

"Instead of wasting time and money traveling all the way to the terminals, I can easily take the bus here. All I have to do is make a call and book a ticket," said Bui Thanh, a woman from Binh Thuan Province.

Sleeper buses are supposed to operate from the Eastern Bus Terminal in Binh Thanh District, where passengers take buses to travel to localities to the east of HCMC as also central provinces. The city has recently moved the boarding point for many intra-locality routes to the new terminal near the border of Thu Duc City and Binh Duong Province.

Sleeper buses park on Tran Binh Trong Street in HCMCs District 5, November 10, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh

Sleeper buses park on Tran Binh Trong Street in HCMC's District 5, November 10, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh

Meanwhile, buses operating routes to Mekong Delta localities can operate from the Western Bus Terminal in the outlying district of Binh Tan.

Instead of using the terminals, many sleeper buses usually gather from late night to early morning every day on Le Hong Phong and Tran Binh Trong streets in District 5 to pick up passengers, saving the latter from long travel and thus winning more customers.

There would be times when five sleeper buses lined up the street with dozens of passengers waiting around with their luggage.

"This area is not different from a bus station," said Pham Xuan, a man who lives on Tran Binh Trong Street.

HCMC Transport Department said there are around 76 spots where transport firms are picking and dropping off passengers illegally, and most of them in the downtown area, including 25 spots in District 5, four in District 1 and two in Binh Thanh District.

Many gas stations along National Highway 1 and 13 in Thu Duc City have also turned into de facto stations.

District 5 officials admitted that the large number of transport businesses in the district, 95, have complicated traffic order.

They said one reason many transport firms have chosen the district as a pickup and drop-off point is it is home to some of the biggest hospitals in HCMC and even the southern region, such as Cho Ray and the HCMC for Tropical Diseases, that draw around 1,000 people from outside the city coming for treatment every day.

The district has punished around 1,600 cases of pickup and drop-off violations in less than a year.

Vo Khanh Hung, deputy director of HCMC's Transport Department, said the situation of de facto bus stations has existed for many years, but became more intense recently after the opening of the new Eastern Bus Station in Thu Duc, which is further from the city center than the old one. Because of the distance, many transport firms have refused to use the new terminal and instead picked up/dropped off passengers on the streets.

HCMC has around 58 transport businesses operating around 1,600 buses on fixed routes with fixed stops, picking up passengers at stations at the city's outlying areas. Then there are more than 1,350 transport firms operating 91,000 buses that can be chartered for various purposes. Several firms would disguise their services as the latter to enter the city's inner areas.

A source from HCMC Transport Inspection Office said traffic inspectors are not allowed to chase after violating vehicles and thus cannot deal with their pickup, dropoff violations.

But a manager of a city's bus station said dealing with such violations is simple. The authorities can trace GPS data to find out if a vehicle has been picking up and dropping off passengers on the streets repeatedly.

HCMC has banned automobiles from parking on many downtown streets as a measure to fix the problem, but it has persisted.

In its latest response to such practice, the HCMC Department of Transport proposed Wednesday that sleeper buses are banned from downtown areas from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting Dec. 15.

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