Over the past 10 years, never before has the sales of the entire Vietnamese automobile market recorded such a high level, at more than 500 thousands cars sold, with a rapid recovery after 2 years of lockdowns due to the COVID-19.
Millions of private vehicles registered each year
According to data from the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers Association (VAMA), sales of member units in December 2022 reached 35,301 vehicles, down 3% compared to November. However, by the end of 2022, VAMA's sales increase by 33% compared to 2021. In general, the total market sales of VAMA member units in 2022 reached 404,635 vehicles, up by 33% compared to 2021, of which, there were 316,941 passenger cars, up by 48%, 82,714 commercial vehicles, down by 1.5% and 4,980 specialised vehicles, down by 14%. On average, each minute, almost a car is sold in Vietnam.
In Hanoi, as of November 2022, the city had a total of 7,784,657 means of transport, of which 1,056,423 cars, 6,545,317 motorbikes, 182,917 electric motorbikes, and about 1,2 million vehicles from provinces and cities participate in traffic in Hanoi. Thus, the average growth rate is about 4-5% per year. According to the transport development plan of Hanoi city to 2030 with a vision to 2050 approved by the Prime Minister in Decision 519/QD-TTg dated March 31, 2016, to ensure the city meets the following requirements: the ratio of land area for traffic must reach from 20%-26%, the land area for static traffic should reach 3-4%, and the rate of public passenger transport must reach between 50-55%. According to the Department of Transport, currently, the ratio of land area for traffic to new urban construction land is about 10.07%, land area for static traffic is less than 1% and the rate of public passenger transport is about 17.8%.
Unavoidable problems from rapid private vehicle growth
In recent months, the air pollution in Vietnam has always been a commonly discussed topic, due to its seriousness. Experts believe that transportation is the leading cause of air pollution in urban areas, contributing 70% of the total amount of dust and emissions into the air environment. This source of pollution has a negative impact on public health, causing an estimated 3.8 million premature deaths annually, in which, 20% of deaths are due to respiratory diseases and cancers related to exposure to fine dust. Along with that is a series of problems with diabetes, cardiovascular, lung, liver, stroke, hormonal disorders, etc.
In addition, according to a research by Uber in Vietnam, on average, people in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City waste 1 hour a day or 15 days a year because of traffic jams. This number will certainly be difficult to reduce in the near future when the population growth rate in these two cities has not shown any signs of cooling down while many large and small traffic projects are facing difficulties in finance, operation as well as site clearance. Moreover, The Uber's survey also showed that 68% of private car owners in Ho Chi Minh City had missed important work because of trouble finding a parking space. In particular, wedding ceremony is the most important event that is delayed the most, as 65% said they had been late to a wedding because of parking problems.
Barriers to potential solutions
The Government has just issued Decree 48 on strengthening the implementation of ensuring traffic order and safety and combating traffic congestion in the period of 2022 - 2025, in 5 big cities: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho, to restrict or stop the operation of motorbikes in some districts after 2030.
Decree 84 specifically requests 5 cities, from their reality, to review and direct specialised agencies to advise the City Council to issue resolutions on prioritising the development of the high-volume public passenger transport system, striving to achieve the target of 30-35% of public passenger transport by 2025; applying intelligent traffic technology in organisation, management and administration of urban traffic; strengthening the management of means of transport in order to reduce traffic congestion and environmental pollution in the city.
According to the approved master plan on transportation development in Hanoi to 2030 with a vision to 2050, the proportion of land area reserved for traffic must reach from 20-26%, the land area reserved for static traffic should reach 3-4%, the rate of public transport must reach 50-55%. However, at the present, the ratio of land area for traffic to the area of land for new urban construction is about 10.07%, the land area for new static traffic is less than 1%, the rate of public transport is about 17.8%. Meanwhile, every year, the number of transport increase by 4-5%/year, so traffic congestion in the city is inevitable and increasingly complicated, requiring breakthrough solutions to solve traffic congestion.
In Ho Chi Minh City, after many years of research, the project to enhance public passenger transport, combined with control of the use of personal motor vehicles was approved by the City Council in 2020. According to the scheme, from In 2021-2030, the city will expand its bus network, ensure connections to urban areas and traffic hubs, and complete projects with large volumes of transport such as metro and rapid transit. When public transport meets the travel needs of people, depending on the area, the city will deploy solutions to control personal vehicles, reorganise traffic for two- and three-wheelers in the central area. For individual vehicle control solutions, the above scheme will add environmental pollution fees to the list of fees and charges, and zoning the operation of two- and three-wheeled vehicles in accordance with infrastructure conditions and the capacity of public transport in the period from 2021-2025. The city will research and organise the implementation of toll collection for cars entering the central area from 2021-2025. From 2026-2030, solutions to develop public vehicles, control personal vehicles and support solutions will be implemented synchronously, gradually restricting two- and three-wheeled vehicles in some central areas.
Many people believe that the major barrier to the success of the plan is the culture of transportation in Vietnam. Motorbikes are the means of livelihood for many people. If motorbikes are banned in the inner city, it will affect the livelihood of the majority of people. Also, the ban on motorbikes or the collection of car fees by area is only implemented when public transport (bus, metro) meets the travel needs of the people. Moreover, in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, the characteristics of alleys and alleys are very long and zigzag, so public transport like busses cannot go further in. The land for traffic as well as public transport in the central districts is very lacking, which is something that needs to be taken into account. During rush hours, most people prefer choosing motorbikes rather than public transport as generally it takes a much shorter time to travel by bike. In fact, the rather fierce reaction from the public is the biggest barrier that has made the advisory agencies and the proposal to limit personal cars in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City falter in the past.
The keys for this rising problem are urban planning, land use planning, traffic planning to meet the travel needs in a reasonable way for people to solve the problem. Along with that, the government needs to revise many legal provisions related to these areas as currently urban areas still prioritise space for apartments and infrastructure works. With a clear structure and through strategy, in the long run, it is a common hope of Vietnamese to be able to commute in a sustainable, efficient and stress-less way.