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HCMC Signs Deal With South Korean Firm to Create Electric Bus Rapid Transit System

Can a bus rapid transit (BRT) system succeed in Saigon?

On June 7, three agreements were signed between government authorities, investors, South Korean tech firm DATAM and other suppliers to move forward with the development of a smart BRT system with electric buses in Ho Chi Minh City, VnExpress reports.

According to the proposal, the electric buses will be 1.49 meters wide with 17 seats, including one for the driver and one wheelchair-accessible seat. A customized lane has to be built in order for the BRT system to operate. The decision to reduce the size of the buses, DATAM says, is to accommodate Saigon's narrow streets.

"We think this solution is suitable for the developmental direction and the infrastructure of the city, as well as the effort to reduce emissions. We will discuss and study in detail to make this project fit well with investment policy, the infrastructure of bus routes here and the commuting habits of city residents," Tran Chi Trung, director of the HCMC Public Transport Management Center, told the news source in Vietnamese.

The total cost for the BRT system is approximately US$525 million, of which US$300 million will be allocated to manufacturing 20,000 electric buses, and the rest will be used to install LED street lights, an AI-based camera system and free WiFi connectivity. The project will be funded by South Korea-based Green Climate Fund. 

“The project will contribute to making Ho Chi Minh City an environment-friendly and green city,” said DATAM chairman James Lee. However, given recent reports about how Hanoi's BRT system failed to reach its full potential, decreasing bus ridership in Saigon and low interest in recent innovative pilots, it remains to be determined if the bus project will be an answer to the city's congestion and pollution problems.

This is not the first time a BRT route has been suggested for Saigon. A similar plan, devised in 2014, aimed to improve connections between the western and eastern sides of Saigon by constructing a BRT line on Vo Van Kiet and Mai Chi Tho avenues. Alas, the project was scrapped in 2018 due to lack of funding and low projected ridership.

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