Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers about their opinions on a recent proposal of Ha Noi police to fine people who wave down so called "snail buses" (rua bo) outside main terminals in big cities. The move aims to deal with the many passenger buses that attempt to fill up with passengers by wandering around the streets instead of moving quickly to their destination.
Here are some of readers' comments.
Pham Ba Tuan, HCM City
I have been living in Viet Nam for two years and have observed many strange things on the road that obstruct the flow of traffic and generate unnecessary accidents.
All this could be easily avoided, however Vietnamese authorities never pay attention and just let things take their course. They do not understand that you need rules on the road to make traffic more fluid and efficient. Of course, at the beginning, change will move slowly because people have to get used to the regulation. Later, when the regulation is settled in people's brain, everything will move flawlessly and quickly.
Buses should never pick up passenger whenever and wherever they feel like because it is dangerous and makes timetables unreliable. In other countries, passengers are picked up at defined locations outside main terminals.
We should not fine passengers for doing this, rather the BUS drivers and BUS companies since it is a better way to teach people about traffic rules and is easier to facilitate.
The weakness of Viet Nam is not the regulation, rather it is the execution of regulations because corruption is what undermines proper execution of the law.
Lawry Bee Tin Yeo, Singaporean
Passengers should be picked up at spots arranged by authorities. Recklessly picking up passengers for buses' own benefit at any spot is very irresponsible and must be stopped because it may cause accidents or hurt pedestrians.
Impositions of fines on passengers or drivers won't solve the problem since most of them can get away with their transgressions. A better solution is for authorities to provide proper and sufficient pick up points with facilities that offer shade and benches for passengers to use.
For buses to pick up passengers along the highway is totally wrong and should be prohibited. There should be no driving interference on highways. If a pick up point is required, slipways can be provided for this purpose and musdt be properly officially designed and approved.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
There are several problems with snail buses. As a customer, you need a safe, predictable and efficient service. If State-owned buses fail to provide that, then competition will sneak in.
Back in my hometown, you buy a ticket, which also counts as a receipt and a contract. There is a guarantee of professional standards, proper insurance and a high level of maintenance and care.
In the event of an accident the driver will not run away like they do in Thailand.
I am OK with this opportunistic niche service, in principle. I would hitchhike if it got me to my destination faster. As a motorcyclist and bicycle rider, I am annoyed with congested roads and competing with selfish drivers.
Big buses reduce the number of cars and motorbikes. Let's have more buses (of any kind) and dedicated bus lanes.
Jenny, Ha Noi
I think this is a very minor issue compared to the many other traffic violations that police could be focusing their efforts on.
The new regulation will not prevent buses from driving slowly to pick up passengers at the roadside unless the bus drivers are fined (instead of the passengers); and as long as the rua bo continue to trawl the streets looking for passengers, people will continue to take advantage of this service.
Although certain roads in Hanoi suffer this issue more than others (e.g. Pham Hung), I don't see it as a major problem - at least these buses are already driving on the right-hand side of the road while they are driving slowly and stopping regularly, and not disrupting traffic flow too much.
Nguyen Tien Muoi, Ha Noi
With an increased number of buses wandering around the streets, I think, first and foremost, bus companies and not passengers should be blamed. As far as I know, there is no regulation in Viet Nam's Road Traffic Law that bans passengers from waiting for buses along the roadside. Therefore, if bus drivers and bus service providers violate traffic laws, they should be fined.
In case the public violates traffic laws, for example walking along a roadbed or areas that do not allow walking, they should be banned. If passengers wait for buses on the roadside where there is no sign banning buses from stopping, it is unreasonable to impose fines on these passengers.
From my own experience, I see quite a few buses on long routes from the city centre to the outskirts running at a snail's pace and stopping outside main terminals to pick up passengers. They try to fill the vehicles with as many people as possible, exceeding the number of seats allowed.
It is necessary to fine bus companies that are responsible for the traffic and crowds. In many cases, buses speed to fight for passengers. This situation has frightened me and some of my friends because it is really dangerous for those driving nearby.
It's better to improve the legal awareness of bus drivers, bus owners and the public and install more bus stops, provided that they do not affect other means of transport.
Also, it is necessary to install cameras on traffic routes to better monitor the situation and increase fines for bus providers.
I'm convinced that if buses no longer pick up passengers outside major terminals, passengers will have no reason to wait for buses by the roadside.
Steve Cooper, Ha Noi
Having used bus services at the My Dinh station only about 4 or 5 times over the years (2003-present), I had no significantly negative memories of any of the journeys…until the most recent in May of this year.
My appointment in Thai Nguyen was at 1.30pm. Knowing that such trips will inevitably take longer than planned, I set off from home in West lake at 7am. The Xe om arrives at My Dinh station at about 7.30am. I find the number of the stop for the Thai Nguyen bus and stand waiting with others. At about 8.45am an ‘unofficial' man tells us that the Thai Nguyen bus has taken to stopping at another place and that we should hurry to get there to make sure we get seats.
Led by him, about a dozen or so people hurried to the waiting, empty and very clean 16-seater. Within 10 minutes all the seats were taken, and yet we were not moving. At 10.30am the bus leaves My Dinh with absolutely no standing room and of course, by this time in the morning, heads straight into heavy traffic.
By 11:30am we had not yet made it as far as Ciputra and had already stopped several times to let people both off and on. I began my journey at 7am–four-and-a-half hours later, I was about 10kms from home.
At 12:30 we had approached somewhere near Vinh Phuc and I had to get out and find a taxi. Exactly VND500,000 (US$23), all the money I had in my pocket, I arrived for my appointment as stressed as I would ever care to be, and with 2 minutes to spare.
The return journey was, however, much more expedient.
If the police are going to tackle what we all know to be the ‘bus mafia', then tackle them and fine the drivers for pulling over or stopping along the route. If the pedestrians knew that buses only stopped at regulated bus stops, as they do back home in the UK, then they wouldn't waste their time trying to flag them down. It's the bus driver who needs to be fined and of course the company.
However, unlike most things related to traffic management - signs, lights and shelters required for en-route bus stops - its behavioural changes that take the most time and strict enforcement. It should be police against drivers and not the poor, hapless pedestrian who can't afford a taxi, never mind a fine, from the authorities for trying to get to work or home. — VNS