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Waterbus yet to be a success
The Saigon Times Daily
Monday,  Dec 11, 2017,20:38 (GMT+7)

Waterbus yet to be a success

The Saigon Times Daily

At first glance, the city’s first water-bus route – as the waterborne commuter transport service using a 75-seat boat is referred to by transport authorities – has been a success when the trial free-of-charge period of ten days beginning November 25 has been overwhelmingly welcomed by passengers. Even after the period, people who are charged VND15,000 for a single trip are still queuing up at Bach Dang Wharf these days to get on board the boat that travels between HCMC’s downtown area and the outlying district of Thu Duc.

However, time will tell if the waterway commuter transport service aimed for by the city’s authorities to share the burden with road transport and to ease traffic congestion in the city can develop as expected. The initial signals so far are encouraging, but most of those people buying tickets to try the service are tourists who want to see the landscapes along the river rather than genuine passengers in their daily business.

Responses from certain passengers show that many tasks are to be accomplished if the city is to earnestly develop river bus service into a favorite transport means for locals and visitors. Along this first route, as many as 12 stations or bus stops are designed, but so far only five have been in place. In addition, the waterborne service has not been well connected with other transport modes, as there are few overland bus routes to shuttle passengers from various areas to the wharves or stations along the waterway.

So far, the city’s Transport Department has opened three electric car routes to transport passengers to and from the water-bus stations, one in District 1 and two in District 2, while the last-mile service elsewhere along the waterway is poorly supplied. Meanwhile, passengers who ride motorcycles also lament they cannot find parking areas close to the water-bus stations to keep their bikes if they want to travel to the city center on the water bus.

Even more troublesome, the first water-bus service is operated at two-hour intervals, making it extremely inconvenient for passengers who have to wait long hours to get on board the boat.

HCMC transport authorities are working with the investor to open the second water-bus route, also from the downtown area to District 8, sometime early next year, and several more will follow suit. That will be a big effort by the city as well as the investor, since developing a water-bus route is costly.

However, to make the new service a real success catering to the need of passengers, the priority should be first-thing-first. The authorities and the investor should seek to reduce the interval between every two trips on the first route by adding more boats compared to five now, improve its connectivity with other transport modes, and develop adequate infrastructure, instead of making haste in developing new routes.

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