Saigon's road space 167 years behind national standard: city leader

By Vi Vu, Thien Ngon   August 18, 2017 | 12:04 pm GMT+7
Saigon's road space 167 years behind national standard: city leader
Heavy traffic on a weekday in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Many have pointed fingers to private cars, saying they are clogging the city's streeets.

Saigon’s top official has ordered the city to speed up road construction or face the prospect of an even more congested urban environment.

“With the current speed of construction, it will take another 167 years for Ho Chi Minh City to reach national standards,” Nguyen Thien Nhan, the city’s Communist Party chief, said at a meeting on Friday.

The city is “very short of road space,” he said.

Road density in the megacity is 1.98 kilometers per square kilometer, while the national standard for urban areas is 10 kilometers for every square kilometer.

He said the city needs “urgent breakthroughs” if it wants to end its dire traffic problems.

"We must speed up road construction by sevenfold in the next 25 years," he said.

A detailed roadmap has not been publicly discussed, and it’s not clear if the construction rush will involve the felling of more trees as it did for the recent metro line and road expansion projects.

HCMC, the country’s most crowded city with 13 million people, has been struggling to deal with worsening traffic congestion in recent years.

Last December, the city released reports showing that it has run out of space for vehicles.

There are now 7.6 million motorbikes and 700,000 cars in the city, with another 850 motorbikes and 180 cars hitting the roads every day, according to official figures.

There are plans in HCMC as well as Hanoi to restrict and eventually ban motorbikes from downtown streets by 2030. Cars will not be subject to this blanket ban, according to the plans.

Although no official debate has been heard, many members of the public have vehemently objected to the city’s stand against motorbikes, the country’s most popular and affordable means of transport.

“The sole cause of traffic jams in HCMC and Hanoi is private cars,” a VnExpress International reader wrote.

Another called it “delusional” for officials to think they can solve the constant gridlock with anything other than reversing the rapid car ownership trend.

According to Vietnamese transport experts, a motorbike carrying one or two people takes up 4.8 square meters of road, while a four-seater car can take as much as 45 square meters.

Hanoi police say cars now occupy 40 percent of road space in the capital.