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|HCM City plans to have more pedestrian streets in the time to come. Photo courtesy of thanhnien.vn|
The city Department of Transport is collecting feedback on possible opening of new pedestrian streets downtown, including on Dong Khoi, Le Loi, Quach Thi Trang, and Ton Duc Thang streets, and the Notre Dame Cathedral square area.
The project, funded by the HCM City Road Traffic Infrastructure Management Centre, aims to make central streets friendly for pedestrians after 2025.
Central District 1 is chosen to implement the project due to its unique grid of streets. A mixture of retail stores, cafes, restaurants, and modern and traditional markets can be found in this 300ha area.
Eight metro routes and three tram lines (or a monorail with a total length of 160km) are expected to be built in District 1 in the coming years. These would welcome 800,000 to 1.2 million commuters travelling back and forth between the main Ben Thanh Station in District 1.
The Opera House and Ham Nghi metro stations, together with nearby bus stops, would also become important points of contact in the area.
Of three pedestrian street proposals submitted by the investor, the second one has received the most support from relevant authorities.
According to the proposal, vehicles would be banned from Dong Khoi Street on weekends, similar to the current traffic suspension on Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street from 7:00pm to 11:00pm every Saturday and Sunday.
Lack of planning
This is not the first time HCM City has carried out research to launch a “super” pedestrian street in the city centre.
Since the beginning of 2017, the city Department of Transport has planned to transform Dong Khoi, Huynh Thuc Khang, Ton Duc Thang, Le Loi, Nguyen Hue, Pham Ngoc Thach, Vo Van Tan, and Tran Cao Van into pedestrian streets.
At the end of 2018, the city Department of Planning and Architecture proposed construction of a pedestrian-friendly area outside Ben Thanh Market.
However, both of these proposals did not receive positive feedback from urban planning experts who disagreed with the way traffic would be organised near the streets.
Architect Ngo Viet Nam Son said the latest proposal has a good approach but lacks detailed planning.
In addition to ensuring smooth traffic connections, authorities need to determine an appropriate financial plan and management model before carrying out construction. Public-private partnerships would be important as well.
Existing pedestrian streets such as Nguyen Hue, Bui Vien and Nguyen Van Binh, which use the state budget, have not been financially successful.
Sơn added that the proposed project emphasises the traffic situation but lacks planning and organisation of land-use space, which is key to development of any pedestrian street.
Though the four most important pedestrian zones in HCM City have been popular, authorities neglected to carry out frequent evaluations that would offer takeaways for future projects, he said.
Notably, Ton Duc Thang and Le Thanh Ton streets have experienced more traffic jams since Nguyen Hue became a pedestrian street.
Sơn suggested that the connection between Le Loi and Ham Nghi streets should be further reviewed as there is currently no reasonable traffic plan to support locals’ lives.
“Considering the current state of HCM City’s traffic, it is necessary to carefully consider every step. The project should be divided into several pilot phases. For example, the first phase is to improve Nguyen Hue Street’s traffic infrastructure and connect it to Book Street, while the second phase would be linking Bui Vien Street with the 23/9 Park,” Son said.