Viet Nam News
Economist Lương Hoài Nam tells the Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper about the urgent trade-offs between private transport and public transport and offers the way forward to curbing traffic congestion in major cities
Major cities like Hà Nội and HCM City see serious traffic jams, although initiatives have been implemented to curb the problem. However, the initiatives seemingly fail to meet people’s needs. In your opinion, what is our first step to curbing traffic congestions in Việt Nam?
The first thing to do is to determine what kinds of urban transportation we want for future: an urban transportation dominated by private vehicles like motorbikes and cars or an urban system with developed public transport. Only when we have clear answer to the question can we identify what and how we should do for a better traffic. Now, we want “everything”; we want to develop public transport but refuse to reduce the use of private vehicles. There is no room for public transport to develop!
Bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Hà Nội is a clear example. BRT is a good idea, but in the first days of its operation, BRT has been trapped among private vehicles.
Now, we are confused over what we want for us now and our children in future. If we want our children to have a safe and modern traffic, we must accept a tradeoff in which we sacrifice the current convenience of using private vehicles.
What do you think about initiatives in HCM City that change two-way roads into one-way ones or impose extra fees to cars that want to enter city centre?
I think that buying a car is mostly to travel long distance, not in city. When traveling within city, we should use taxis, which are very available. I agree with the policy to collect extra fee to car owners who want to enter city centre during rush hour or who want to park their cars in crowded areas as now parking fees are too cheap. In other countries, people have to pay US$5 or $8 or $10 to park in an hour.
Recently, HCM City transitioned streets including Cộng Hòa Street, Trường Chinh Street and Hoàng Văn Thụ Street to one-way streets. I’m not sure whether the move is effective or not, but I think that the streets usually have serious traffic jams and something new should be done. At least, give it a try.
When an initiative is introduced, make it real. If we keep discussing and guessing what will be effective, we will never find solutions. It’s time for both Governmental bodies and citizens to be open to changes.
Citizens, particularly private transport users, are called to sacrifice their interests. What about the Government’s management bodies?
Now is the time for relevant Government’s bodies to affirm their roles. Citizens usually care and can see what happen around them in their daily life. Government’s bodies need to have further vision. They have chances to witness and learn what happen in other countries. They must be bold in bringing such international lessons to Việt Nam. If they are not determined, they will get lost among different comments and fail to make a difference.
To road users, they must be aware that if they keep using private vehicles, they must accept traffic congestion as a consequence. Hà Nội and HCM City each now have about 3,000 buses. To make bus a popular public transport option, the cities must have 10,000 - 30,000 buses, but there is not enough space for that many buses to run in the cities if the number of private vehicles remains or increases.
In order to develop public transport, citizens must accept a trade-off. Or, if they keep using private vehicles, they will keep suffering from traffic jams. — VNS