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Buses the key to reducing gridlock in HCMC   2008-09-12 - Thanhnien

Ho Chi Minh City authorities are looking to buses to help alleviate the city’s traffic woes.  
Ho Chi Minh City authorities must rely on buses to ease traffic congestion over the next few years while its sprawling US$1 billion subway is under construction, a conference heard Thursday.


Around 5 million vehicles with engines cruise HCMC streets every day, Transport Department Director Tran Quang Phuong told the conference, which brought officials from the municipal administration and bus cooperatives together to try to hammer out a plan to boost bus services in the city.

Since the new school year started last month, traffic gridlocks have become even more common, after a brief respite over the summer holidays.

Motorbikes registered in other provinces and cities now account for four out of every 10 vehicle on HCMC streets, Phuong said. Two years ago non-HCMC registered vehicles made up, between 10 and 15 percent of the vehicles plying the city’s streets.

HCMC’s infrastructure had not kept up with the increasing number of vehicles and street barriers around various repair and drainage projects make traffic problems worse, he said.

It will be six years before the city’s first subway – which will run through districts 1, 2, 9, Binh Thanh and Thu Duc – is commissioned. In the meantime, city officials should promote bus services as a means of reducing the number of vehicles on the road, Phuong said.

Positive signs

At the conference, the Transport Department urged bus cooperatives to do more to attract customers.

The department praised the operation of the 19/5 bus cooperative and called for other companies to follow its business model.

Over the past month, the 19/5 cooperative has assigned personnel to particular bus routes instead of rotating staff as it did in the past. The cooperative has also started paying standby staff at the same rate as actively engaged staff.

The cooperative also cracked down on employees who mistreated passengers, the Transport Department told the conference.

The cooperative reported a 27 percent increase in customers since last month as well as a drop in the number of complaints.

At the conference, the Transport Department instructed members of the Bus Cooperatives Alliance to apply the 19/5 cooperative’s model to at least 50 percent of their routes by the end of this year.

Bus cooperatives’ representatives also called for the city to ensure that various rewards and penalties for bus operators were appropriate.

The city should also set specific targets for bus operators, said Nguyen Duy Long, Deputy Director of the HCMC Transport Co. Ltd.

“During the last eight months, the city has penalized around 8,000 offending buses and also received some 5,000 complaints from disaffected customers,” he said. “The Transport Department should spell out the specific targets to decrease the number of violations and complaints.”

On August 30, HCMC rolled out a campaign to encourage the use of public buses to ease traffic congestion.

Prior to the campaign, city officials voiced concern over reckless drivers and inadequate bus routes.

HCMC mayor Le Hoang Quan has promised the city would take stringent action against careless bus drivers and increase the number of routes to ensure the campaign was a success.

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