Vietnam Tries to Head Off Rising Car Culture by Building Transit

Lien Hoang looks at efforts by Vietnam's government to get ahead of rising living standards, and the auto congestion that often accompanies, by building modern transit systems in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

"A developed city is not one in which the poor get around by car but one in which the rich get around by public transit, a former mayor of Bogotá once said. That’s the vision Vietnam is trying to live up to as it becomes more prosperous," says Hoang.

"But the government’s efforts to finalize work on metro systems for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is being undermined by rising living standards and consumerism. Motorbikes, which were an icon of Vietnam’s economic reforms in the 1980s, are being supplanted by a better status symbol: cars."

"So if the Vietnamese government wants to head off the kind of gridlock that plagues Jakarta and Beijing it would do well to funnel its resources into mass transit — and fast."

"Vietnam can’t delay the push for its first metros; it must get those trains running before a new car culture replaces the country’s motorbike culture. 'Once people get into a car,' [Robert Valkovic, the Asian Development Bank’s transport specialist for Vietnam] warns, 'it’s hard to get them out.'”

Full Story: Easy Riders

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