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|Tran Huu Minh, deputy head of the National Traffic Safety Committee|
Buses are still the only main public transportation in Vietnam. Hanoi launched new bus rapid transit and HCM City had new waterway buses but the routes were limited. Both cities are still building urban railway systems.
Tran Huu Minh, deputy head of the National Traffic Safety Committee, said buses or minibuses would all have to compete with personal vehicles as well as ride-hailing services. "The vehicle ownership in Vietnam is very high, with 600 vehicles in operation per 1,000 people," he said.
Both Hanoi and HCM City have narrow roads compared to the amount of daily traffic. HCM City has over 4,000 roads but only 30 percent are wider than seven metres. Meanwhile, Hanoi still lacks bus stops at many new residential areas. Despite state subsidies, only 10 percent of the public use public buses.
Many experts agreed that it was necessary to have more minibuses to gather and connect more people with bus stops and the metro stations. However, they need a detailed field survey and careful plan instead of grand ideas.
Nguyen Hoang Hai, director of Hanoi Traffic Management Centre, said, "We are still carrying research but we reached a consensus that minibuses are necessary."
According to the World Bank, the travelling time of Hanoians to their nearest bus stops is still too long. With better and more realistic organisation, more people would use public buses even after the metro line is completed.
"Hanoi has 118 bus routes, 26 of them are for buses with 80 seats and the rest are for 30-seat buses. Most of them are designed to serve central areas and we lack a comprehensive system for the whole city including the expanded areas," Hai said.
He went on to say that the city's centre had the most buses but also the most narrow roads which were less than 11 metres wide. 113 communes and wards still need public buses. The authorities need preferential policies, suitable ticket prices, and promotion programmes to encourage people to use public transportation more often.
Tran Huy Anh from Hanoi Architects Association blamed traffic management and planning in the past years.
"Minibuses may be our solution for the next decade," he said. "We need to boost the image of minibuses to attract passengers. However, service quality is the make or break factor for which we need solutions for the current infrastructure and management method.