Solutions towards sustainable urban transport development

November 12, 2021 | 13:47
Despite actions to develop urban transport infrastructure, Vietnam still faces many obstacles on the path. Nguyen Ngoc Dong, Deputy Minister of Transport, writes about international lessons and future orientations to increase both efficiency and sustainability.
Nguyen Ngoc Dong, Deputy Minister of Transport
Nguyen Ngoc Dong, Deputy Minister of Transport

The development of urban transport is facing major issues, especially in modern and sustainable urban areas. These include serious traffic jams in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which cause negative impacts on the economy and the environment, and which reduces attractiveness in the business climate.

Moreover, the transport system connecting urban and rural areas remains problematic and unfavourable for the sustainable development of both. In addition, land funds for transport development in urban construction are low, even in big cities, at just 10 per cent in Hanoi; 8.8 per cent in Ho Chi Minh City; 8.3 per cent in Haiphong; 7.5 per cent in Danang; and 7.2 per cent in Can Tho. As ruled in the Law on Road Traffic, the rate should be 16-26 per cent. Worse still, growing migration into inner cities also seriously affects traffic operations as well as public services.

The other big challenge in the sustainable development of urban transport is a high number of users of individual transport, especially motorbikes, while public transport by bus only meets around 8-9 per cent of local demand in Hanoi; around 5-6 per cent in Ho Chi Minh City; and less than 1 per cent in other cities. Urban passenger transport mainly relies on roads with low service quality, while modern metro lines are still being built.

Vietnam has made strong commitments in the implementation of sustainable development goals by issuing national action plans to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 13th National Party Congress set the policy that “urban areas are a driving force for regional development” and set the target of having an urbanisation rate at 45 per cent by 2025, and over 50 per cent by 2030. In the meantime, one of three strategic breakthrough pillars in the 2021-2030 period is defined as giving priority development to essential transport infrastructure and urban areas.

Sustainable urban development has been carried out in many cities worldwide, especially in developed ones. Vietnam should learn lessons from them to make the next steps.

The first lesson for urban transport development is to have master planning to set out the targets and orientation for the long term, making it a firm foundation for later stages of development.

The second is to have appropriate and enabling policies, thus giving priority to urban public transport development such as increasing transport capacity, diversification and improvement of service quality, increasing density and access, and calling for private investment.

The third is to invest in and operate metro lines as a spine for public transport in cities, and the bus system as a service model in areas where metro lines do not go through. We must gradually limit the use of individual means of transport and eventually remove environmentally-unfriendly vehicles, as well as have policies to encourage the use of clean fuels.

The fourth is to firmly adjust general construction planning towards further aligning with transport infrastructure development planning; not to build high-rise buildings amid traffic density imbalance; and reasonable allocation of investment to ensure balanced development among areas to restrict high-density transport in inner central areas. Moreover, it is necessary to intensify and increase urban transport order; control and soon deal with traffic problems; and increase exchange of experience on planning and urban transport management.

These lessons are valuable for Vietnam to enable the sustainable development of urban areas. However, how to apply them in a smart and effective manner in line with specific conditions of Vietnam is extremely important.

In the adjustments to the transport development strategy to 2020 with a vision towards 2030 approved by the prime minister in Decision No.355/QD-TTg dated 2013, as well as in the updated transport development plans for 2021-2030, the country attaches importance to the development of urban transport, with attention to investing in upgrading, expanding, and building key urban traffic axis and beltways.

This is all while fast-tracking metro projects in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, thus step by step developing synchronous and modern urban transport infrastructure, enhancing connectivity between local urban areas and regional ones, and combining the development of urban areas with rural ones.

To achieve the goals, we need to develop urban transport infrastructure and a public transport system in an appropriate and synchronous manner to increase land funds for urban transport projects to 16-26 per cent. For big cities, we aim to strongly develop a bus transport system and then put into operation massive public passenger transport systems such as metro lines to increase the public passenger transport ratio to 25-30 per cent, while controlling more effectively the development of motorbikes and individual cars, especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In addition, relevant units should give a priority to investing in upgrading, expanding, and building intersections, urban bypasses, and beltways, as well as speed up the development of metro lines in our two biggest cities.

Another important solution to be implemented is to study and apply sci-tech and advanced equipment such as new signals, camera systems, and intelligent transport systems while upgrading and building transport monitoring centres in large cities.

If carried out well, we will be able to soon develop green and smarter cities that will pioneer innovative activities, becoming a driving force for overall national development.

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