It is the public that's killing Hanoi's BRT

By Nam Hoang   July 3, 2022 | 05:04 pm PT
It is the public that's killing Hanoi's BRT
A car gets in front of a BRT bus in a BRT-exclusive lane in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
How can the BRT succeed if people don't allow it to thrive in the first place?

I believe the BRT (bus rapid transit) is the right way to remove personal vehicles from roads. But why hasn't it taken off in Vietnam even after six years?

As someone who uses buses regularly to go to work, I see what is going on. The whole point about the BRT is that it is supposed to have a lane for itself. But people on the road do not seem to have got the memo: Cars, bikes and motorbikes keep invading their lane, preventing them from operating freely.

When I read comments against the BRT, I often see reasons like "the roads are too small and it is not right to have a lane exclusively for buses while other vehicles are stuck in traffic jams."

That line of reasoning, to me, is selfish. They only care about their own convenience, even when that convenience gets in the way of public interest.

Our goal has always been to reduce the number of private vehicles on the road, and so it is okay to make it as inconvenient as possible to use them. That is the only way for people to really change.

If other vehicles keep getting in the way of BRT buses, they would be no different than normal buses, possibly even slower than motorbikes. People say the BRT is too slow and therefore is a failure. And whose fault is that?

If you want to see successful BRTs, just look to other countries. Many European countries have roads that are the same size as ours, yet their vehicles traverse them in an orderly manner unlike the chaotic mess in Vietnam.

I believe it is the people's sense of responsibility that leads to the success or failure of any public transport model. As long as we keep behaving like monkeys on the road, there will always be traffic jams.

There needs to be a comprehensive solution, and that solution needs to be uncompromising. I say fine all the vehicles that encroach into BRT lanes, especially during rush hour. We have surveillance cameras, but they are mostly used to fine cars and not motorbikes. If we don't deal with the problem at its source, it will never go away.

Next, Hanoi needs to finish connecting its public transport infrastructure with existing systems. The BRT would not be able to survive if it has only a single lane as it does now and, more importantly, without being connected to other forms of public transport such as buses and the metro.

Public transport only works with good connectivity or else people just will not care.

Without developing the BRT to its full potential, it would be too hasty to evaluate its efficacy.

If we give up now, it will mean an enormous waste of time, money and effort spent on the BRT. The same goes for the metro, and if it ever comes to that, public transport in Vietnam will be as good as dead. How long can we cling on to cars and motorbikes anyway?

And since we are on the subject, I also support a motorbike ban in Hanoi in the near future. It is the best way to encourage people to switch to public transport.

The BRT sounds good on paper, but to translate it into reality is another story. I hope policymakers take a second look at the criticisms leveled at it, ignore them and soldier on with their original vision.

The opinions expressed here are personal and do not necessarily match VnExpress's viewpoints. Send your opinions here.
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