HCMC to spend $3 mln on pedestrian zone expansion

By Huu Cong, Gia Minh   October 3, 2020 | 11:15 am GMT+7
HCMC to spend $3 mln on pedestrian zone expansion
Foreign tourists walk on Dong Khoi Street in downtown HCMC, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
HCMC has drawn up a plan to expand its pedestrian zone by adding reorganizing traffic flows on five ‘new’ downtown streets.

Officials hope that the expanded pedestrian zone will boost the city’s night-time economy.

The HCMC Center for Management of Road Traffic Infrastructure under the Department of Transport estimates that the proposed expansion would cost around VND74 billion ($3.19 million).

The streets of Dong Khoi, Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Thai Van Lung and Thi Sach in District 1 are in an area with a relatively well developed public transport network and a short distance from famous tourist attractions like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.

In 2025, when both Metro Line 1 and No. 2 become operational, the station area near Ben Thanh Market, the iconic Opera House on Dong Khoi Street and Ham Nghi Boulevard would become a major traffic hub, welcoming millions of pedestrians each year.

In order to add these five downtown streets to the existing pedestrian zones, the center proposes that the city rearrange traffic, improve bus routes and boost infrastructure, with some sections narrowed to allow space for parking and pedestrians.

Specifically, one-way Dong Khoi Street, home to an array of luxury hotels and shopping malls, will revert to a two-way road for cars and motorbikes with space for parking lots while Nguyen Thiep will become a two-way street for motorbikes with cars banned.

Thai Van Lung will become a one-way street for motorbikes and two-way street for cars with sidewalks designed exclusively for pedestrians.

The Ham Nghi Boulevard would be redesigned into a high-quality space for pedestrians. A lot of greenery including trees will be planted on the street, as also seats and bus stops reserved exclusively for high-quality buses.

Road intersections and crossings will be upgraded to ensure the safety of passersby. In the first phase, these roads will only restrict vehicles on weekends, as happens with the Nguyen Hue and Bui Vien walking streets now. In the long term, these streets would be turned into pedestrian-only walking streets, the center envisages.

To accommodate travel needs in these areas, the project also mulls providing public bicycle services. During the first phase, the expanded walking zone will be arranged with 388 bicycles in 52 locations; and in the long term, there would be 3,000 bicycles arranged at 350 points.

The proposal also envisages the building of parking lots in the walking zone to accommodate 12,000 motorbikes and 4,500 cars during the weekends and public holidays.

The pedestrian zone expansion will boost socio-economic development and attract more foreign tourists while reducing congestion, pollution and noise, the center notes.

The five new pedestrian streets are expected to connect with the current two ones at Nguyen Hue and Bui Vien to create an expanded walking zone in an effort to give a boost for night-time economy and revive tourism.

Experts have said that the expanding walking streets in downtown Saigon to create more night-time activities will increase spending by foreign tourists. They have also said that for the expansion to be effective, there must be synchronous development of public transportation, with buses, metro lines, river buses, and bicycles forming a smooth operating network, increasing accessibility to the pedestrian streets.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has already approved a master plan for developing the night-time economy development in Vietnam, allowing major cities like Hanoi and HCMC to pilot nocturnal services from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The approval stemmed from a recognition that the night-time economy was a global trend boosting the tourism sector by offering travelers more choice of cultural activities as well as spending opportunities.

HCMC received more than 8.6 million foreign visitors last year, up 13 percent year-on-year, while raking in tourism revenues of VND150 trillion ($6.4 billion).

 
 
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