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As Ridership Falls, Saigon Revamps Its Bus Routes

In an effort to attract more passengers, city officials are going to great lengths to revitalize Saigon’s aging public bus system.

With ever-decreasing ridership and traffic congestion impeding the city’s development, municipal officials hope to tackle some of the southern hub’s transportation woes by making significant upgrades to its current bus network, reports VietnamNet.

Over the past year, transportation officials have faced this issue head-on, purchasing newer, more environmentally friendly buses, upgrading customer service on existing vehicles and introducing new bus routes to encourage greater public transportation use among Saigoneers. Just last week, Saigon launched two new bus routes: one from District 9’s Long Phuoc Ward to the Hung Kings Temple in District 1 and another from downtown September 23 Park to An Suong Bus Station in Hoc Mon.

The latter also became the city’s fifth bus route to use compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional vehicles. So far, 165 CNG vehicles are used throughout the city, according to Deputy Director Le Hoang Minh of the Ho Chi Minh City Transport Department.

Beyond new technology, public transport firms have also extended the hours of operation on several routes and even elicited feedback from students and passengers with disabilities in an effort to improve customer service.

While these are positive steps forward, there is still more work to be done. City officials are currently conducting research on two new routes from Tan Son Nhat International Airport – in addition to the one which debuted earlier this year – and exploring the possibility of improving bus routes from Saigon’s train station. Experts have also called for a limit on personal vehicles on the road, which they say would encourage more people to opt for bus transport as an alternative.

At present, traffic congestion, a lack of dedicated bus lanes and poor-quality buses all contribute to the city’s decreasing bus ridership, experts say, not to mention the rise of apps like Grab and Uber. The number of bus passengers is down for the third consecutive year, according to the municipal Department of Transport; ridership on Saigon buses has slumped from 413 million passengers in 2013 to just 334.5 million last year.

[Photo via VOH]

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