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Electric-bus service draws raves from residents, tourists

Update: February, 08/2017 - 17:00
HCM City’s new open-air electric buses were popular with both tourists and residents in the first few days of operation during the Lunar New Year (Tết) holiday. — VNS Photo An Phương
Viet Nam News

By An Phương

HCM CITY — HCM City’s first-ever electric bus service, offered by the Department of Transport, has received highly positive feedback from passengers in its first few days of operation.

Among the four routes (D1, D2, D3, and Phú Mỹ Hưng), D1 has been the most popular as it allows locals and tourists to explore downtown from the 23/9 Park to the Sài Gòn Zoo, according to an e-bus driver.

“Our D1 buses were packed with passengers during Tết (Lunar New Year) Holiday,” he said. “I personally think this is a fun and environmentally friendly service that everyone should try.”

Lê Như, 54, who sells beverages near Sài Gòn Zoo, said her grandchildren loved the ride on the open-air bus.

“We did it once during Tết and they kept asking me to bring them back for more. I’m very excited as well because I haven’t had that many chances to explore the city, despite more than 30 years living here,” she said.

The new service is part of the Government’s effort to promote tourism and drive more traffic to popular city attractions and enhance tourists’ travel experiences.

“I met four foreigners today and they all agreed that our electric buses have more comfortable seats than Thailand’s tuk tuks,” an e-bus driver said.

Compared to tuk tuks, which are common in both Thailand and Cambodia, Việt Nam’s electric buses offer a smoother, more comfortable ride.

But some local and international passengers voiced concern about traffic jams, which could make shuffling around the city unpleasant.

“People tend to hop on our buses at off-peak hours and during weekends. No one wants to sit in traffic and breathe car exhaust,” a driver said.

Tickets cost VNĐ12,000 (US$0.5) per trip and VNĐ6,000 ($0.3) for up to half of the trip in D1, while the fare for the other three routes is VNĐ10,000 ($0.45).

“Since it costs less than a dollar, I’m more than happy to try it, not just once, but many times. I believe this will become a major activity for tourists visiting HCM City,” Phan Thị Thanh Thư, 25, said, adding that she would recommend it to her Australian friends who will be visiting next month.

While the small open-air buses have won praise from riders, there is still room for improvement.

Như and Thư said that more routes should open in the future and that city authorities should assure tourists they won’t be stuck in traffic jams, especially now that most people have returned to work after a long Tết break.

Thư added that more advertising about the service should be on the internet, while the electric-bus stations should have more prominent decorations.

“When I first heard of the service from one of my friends, I tried to search for more information on where to catch the bus and its schedule. However, nothing much popped up, so I had quite a difficult time tracking down the bus station. Who would have thought the bus station was inside Sài Gòn Zoo!” she said.

Passengers also said that it was important for bus staff to wear professional uniforms and be friendly to maintain the service’s clean image.

While the D1 route is targeted at tourists, the other routes are meant to serve locals living in District 7.

D1 buses are available from 5am to 10pm daily, and the D2, D3 and Phú Mỹ Hưng buses run from 8am to 9:54pm daily. — VNS

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