Buses, essentially the only public transport available in Ho Chi Minh City, are turning both passengers and drivers away due to a lack of investment, officials said at a conference Friday.
The city’s transport department estimated that the system will have seen nearly 324 million passenger journeys by the end of the year, down 11.7 percent from last year. The estimate is 13 percent lower than the annual target.
Le Hoang Minh, deputy director of the department, said subsidized routes have shed more riders.
Minh said a major problem of public buses is that they have to share the same roads with other vehicles. Without designated lanes, the services cannot be improved, he said.
The official said that regular traffic jams have caused many buses to arrive at their stops late, which is the main reason for many passengers to rate the services as poor.
Some buses have been on the road for years and can easily broke down.
Current public bus tickets in the city cost between VND5,000-10,000 (22-44 US cents) a trip.
But each trip is taking more time, making buses a much worse option than motorbikes, said a representative of Saigon Bus Company, which is managing the more than 500 public buses in the city.
It now takes 70 minutes for a bus to travel from the Mien Dong Terminal in Binh Thanh District to the District 8 Terminal, while one driving a motorbike only needs around 45 minutes.
Many people still have to take several buses because the network is not well designed and the routes are not well connected, the company found.
Nguyen Quoc Viet from Ho Chi Minh Transport Cooperative, which is managing all public bus drivers in the city, said many drivers are not happy with their job as they have to deal with constant traffic jams and schedule pressure while salaries of less than $20 a day are not very rewarding.
“They are tired,” Viet said. More than 100 of them have quit recently to work for private transport companies, he said.
A survey by the city public transport management center released in September showed that a large number of public bus passengers have switched to personal vehicles. One major reason is they were not happy with the staff. There have also been complaints about a lack of support for passengers with disabilities.
Public buses are only serving 6.5 percent of travel demand in the city, which suffers severe congestion throughout the day. On average 139 new cars and 750 new motorbikes are registered every day.
The city is now building its metro system, but the first line linking the downtown with District 9 will only be put into use in 2018, if the project does not fall behind schedule.