Hanoi's traffic disease needs holistic remedy

TN News

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Hanoi still lacks a comprehensive plan to beef up weak transport infrastructure that is proving grossly inefficient to provide for a rapidly increasing number of vehicles.

General director of the Hanoi Department of Transport Nguyen Quoc Hung said transport infrastructure couldn't be expanded because the city had only designated 6-7 percent of the capital's total urban land area for use by the department.

To deal with the city's over 3.6 million motorbikes and 302,000 automobiles, the capital has only been able to build a few dozen kilometers of roads over the last several years.

"Because we have no beltway surrounding the city, vehicles moving freight and passengers that want to circumvent Hanoi have no choice but to pass through the inner city, creating great pressure on the urban transport system," Hung said.

Tran Dang Loi, vice chairman of the Union of Science and Technology of Hanoi, said Vietnam also lacked urban housing. But as authorities deal with this problem and build more housing in Hanoi, less land is set aside for roads.

He said that the trend of building residential and then allocating leftover land for roads was a disaster in the making that would "obviously" lead to traffic jams, indicating that roads needed to be planned beforehand.

The problem of parking space has also not attracted the appropriate amount of attention, Loi said.

Normally, cities need 4-6 percent of their land to be used for parking. But in Vietnam, parking areas are usually improvised on the road, sidewalks or on cleared land waiting for construction.

Nguyen Viet Trung from the agency for Environmental Impact Assessment and Appraisal at the Vietnam Environmental Administration agreed that there was simply not enough urban parking available in Hanoi.

Sidewalks for pedestrians are completely occupied by vendors and both legal and illegal parking lots. This puts pedestrians in danger as they have to walk in the street, said Trung.

A number of overpasses and tunnels built for pedestrians have also been put at ineffective locations, he said.

He also said that changing several four-way intersections into three-way ones had backfired and made traffic in these areas worse.

Preventative treatment

Hung said the main problem was that the city's transport development strategy has not been linked to other aspects of urban planning. "New urban areas" continue to rise where roads have not yet been completed, he complained.

The city should develop its transport strategy to encourage public transportation, he said. "We should rapidly develop modes of mass and rapid transport, and control the growth of private vehicles."

Public transportation now accounts for only 5 percent of all transportation in Hanoi.

"Without measures to restrain the growth in overall vehicle traffic, particularly that of individual vehicles, fuel use and emissions will grow along with enormous congestion problems," said Peter Midgley from the Global Transport Knowledge Partnership.

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