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Minibuses That Run in Hẻms Might Be the Latest Transport Pilot Program in Saigon

Will there be room in Saigon’s hẻm system to fit small buses?

Saigon authorities are about to complete a radical public transport proposal that might change the way Saigoneers commute in the future. In an interview on July 31 with Zing, Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Center of Public Transportation Tran Chi Trung shared that his office has come up with a pilot program to put minibuses into use on city streets.

Trung emphasized that the program is the center’s most crucial project in 2018, which will be submitted for consideration by the Department of Transport and the HCMC People’s Committee in the near future.

In Saigon, 46% of alleys are less than six meters wide but as many as 85% of the city’s population are hẻm dwellers, he said. Therefore, reaching these residents is a very challenging task for normal buses; this is where the minibuses will come in.

According to the pilot program, 30 minibus routes will serve residents living in local hẻms that are wide enough to accommodate minibuses (four to six meters). The network will boast a fleet of 200 to 250 vehicles, each with the capacity of 12 riders. The buses will feature a unique design and modified horns to minimize noise pollution in residential quarters.

“If approved, before implementing [the plan], the center will survey the infrastructure of each neighborhood and gather feedback from local residents to create a suitable minibus network,” Trung shares with the news source in Vietnamese.

The minibuses will ferry Saigon’s hẻm habitants to major commuting hubs while stations will be distributed evenly every 200 meters to maximize convenience for riders.

The hẻm bus pilot program is part of a bigger vision of transport authorities to grow the Saigon’s bus network to reach at least 90% in customer satisfaction and meet around 16% of the city’s transportation demands by 2020.

Some netizens have lauded the new plan for its outside-the-box way of thinking, while others find it unrealistic and hard to implement. In an informal poll that Tuoi Tre put up on its Facebook page, only 40% readers think that the city should move forward with the program. The question has amassed 4,800 votes so far.

Apart from the minibus proposal, Saigon has also introduced a new version of bus stations, which comes equipped with a canopy, wheelchair accessibility, electronic information banner, lighting and CCTV. The first station of this kind can be spotted on Le Quy Don Street near Le Quy Don High School in District 3.

[Photo: A normal-size bus picks up passengers at the Central Bus Station on Ham Nghi Street, District 1]

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