Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — To encourage more students to travel by public transport, the HCM City Department of Education and Training (DET) has proposed the city offer free bus passes to all students.
Bùi Thị Diễm Thu, deputy director of the department, made the proposal at a meeting to review the effectiveness of bus subsidies, which was organised by HCM City People’s Council recently.
Thu said the initiative would ensure safety for students and help ease traffic congestion.
The proposal has drawn applause from experts and parents who said it would help families reduce the costs of transporting children by bus and encourage them to choose free buses over expensive private vehicles.
The fact that more and more students use bus services would not only decrease the number of private vehicles on the road but also set up the habit of using public transport for children, they said. It would significantly contribute to public transportation development in the future.
The city authorities have been implementing a subsidy programme to encourage students to go to school by bus. However, the number of students travelling by bus is still limited to just 3 per cent of students in the city.
Only 123 schools in 15 districts have signed agreements with bus operators to pick up and drop off their students. Around 71 per cent of them are in the outlying districts of Cần Giờ, Củ Chi, Hóc Môn, Bình Chánh and Nhà Bè.
The low number of student passengers was blamed on improper route planning, bus operators’ poor management and traffic congestion. In addition, the quality of bus service hasn’t been improved as passengers continue to complain about bus staff’s attitude and buses usually run off schedule.
Nguyễn Thị Quyết Tâm, chairwoman of the municipal People’s Council, said that the DET proposal on free bus passes for students was a practical idea. She asked the Finance Department and Transport Department to mull over the initiative.
While offering free bus passes for students is considered an important step for the city to realise its target of having between 15 and 20 per cent of students travelling by bus by 2020, experts said much should be done to improve the efficiency as well as the quality of bus service.
According to Lê Trung Tính, former head of Transport Division under the Transport Department, to attract students travelling by bus, a unified bus system for suburban areas and the inner city is necessary. Now buses in the city operate separately and are not connected very well. Therefore, the bus routes should be restructured to ensure convenience for students. "The most important issue is to make sure buses run on time," he said, adding that this is very difficult given the current traffic situation in the city.
Trần Quốc Minh from the HCM City Bar Association agreed.
“If the city does not improve the bus routes, making them convenient for people to get on the bus at the right time and easily access schools, alleys and residential areas, students will not travel to school by bus,” he told Lao động (Labour) newspaper.
Đoàn Thị Ngọc Cẩm, vice chairwoman of Cần Giờ District’s People’s Committee, said a survey conducted by the district’s relevant agency showed that most of the buses were old and dilapidated vehicles. She requested that city People’s Committee support the replacement of these vehicles.
She said there were four bus routes that received subsidies from the city authority to buy nearly 60 vehicles.
Regarding funding for the free bus passes for students, Nguyễn Văn Hùng, an economic expert, said the proposal was feasible as the City had already discounted students’ bus tickets by 50 per cent. He suggested the city authority enhance advertising on buses and bus shelters to offset the bus subsidies.
HCM City targets 15 per cent of public transport via bus
HCM City authorities aim to have at least 15 per cent of commuters in the city travelling by public bus by 2020.
The director of the city’s Management and Operation Centre for Public Transport, Trần Chí Trung, said the city would spend VNĐ1,000 billion (US$ 42.9 million) to subsidise public buses this year.
However, the amount is insufficient because transport companies and co-operatives have replaced 1,162 buses with new ones, including 352 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.
To make up for the shortfall, the city’s Department of Transport has proposed that the People’s Committee increase subsidies for bus cooperatives by VNĐ330 billion (US$14 million) each year.
The city budget subsidises more than 1,300 buses, including 400 buses that specialise in serving workers and students. In addition, fuel prices and costs for hiring drivers and other staff for buses have also increased, while revenue from bus operations has not risen. Recently, the Management and Operation Centre for Public Transport began offering discount fares of VNĐ2,000 on all public buses to students and the poor.
City authorities also plan to improve bus access for people with disabilities.
Vũ Huy Tường Nhã, a blind person who lives in District 10, said that speakers should be installed on buses to announce information for people who are visually impaired.
From now to the end of the year, 100 bus stops will be upgraded and camera systems installed on all buses, while direct bus routes from Chợ Lớn Bus Station or West Bus Station to Children’s Hospital will be opened. — VNS