Written by John Guzman

Ho Chi Minh City is a highly-urbanized city in southern Vietnam. The city hosts biggest population cluster in the country and serves as the economic center of the nation. It is bustling and traffic jam is a common occurrence. While motorcycles are plentiful, the city still needs “an efficient mass transit”.

Metro Line No.1 is already under construction. It is expected to stretch almost 20 kilometers, connecting Ben Thanh and Suoi Tien in District 9, and to be operational by 2018. This year, plans for a Metro Line No.2 is also underway. It must be a welcomed development for citizens baving through the chaotic city streets daily. However, the metro line is not gaining much popularity among the majority of Vietnamese who are accustomed to driving cars and motorbikes. For now, the image of public transportation in the country, which is still limited to buses, is not so good among the public.

Metro Line No.2 will run from Ben Thanh Ward in District 1 to Tham Luong Ward in District 12, according to Thanh Nien report. Metro Line No.2 is crucial to the city’s economic activities as District 1 is the busiest district in the city with the highest economic activities. It also houses administrative offices, consulates, and high-rise buildings. District 12, on the other hand, houses IT zone Quang Trung Software City (QTSC). QTSC is equally important to the city as it houses software development companies and serves as training centers for developers in Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands of people that work in the two districts and in between will have access to the metro. Its completion will then greatly improve commute time between the two wards.

While Metro Line No.2 is underway, its operator, HCMC Urban Railway Management Board must now make plans on how to persuade people into switching from driving cars and motorbikes to using the metro line. Fare pricing is one important consideration. It should be less costly than the average price people pay for petroleum through their daily commute. The fare should also be less than bus fares. The Metro operator should be aware of future number of ridership. Plans to increase train coaches to accommodate the increase of passengers over the years must be planned ahead, as well. Ultimately, the operator should ensure efficiency of services.

In the Philippines, Metro Rail Transit operator has been criticized by the public for being poorly-planned and also having poor management. Where the designed capacity of the metro is only 350,000 daily, while the actual ridership is as high as 560,000, as reported by GMA News. As a result, crammed coaches coupled with long lines are the order of the day for commuters. These defeat the very purpose of an efficient mass transit. HCMC Urban Railway Management Board should learn from these lessons.

Ho Chi Minh City residents should have a change in attitude for it to become sustainable and competitive among its ASEAN peers. Across the region, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok have all developed their own metro rail transits and benefits have been enormous. In fact, executing the plan for Metro Line No.2, is already too late. Come 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community will link the ten member countries and it is imperative for the city to offer the community an efficient mass transit. Foreigners would not be expected to brave the city’s streets on motorbikes, unless for few brave ones.
Bottomline, the city’s government should give regional businesses a reason to tap its large market-base.

–Edited by Mohamed P.Hassan

By Ray