The Urban Transport Crisis in Emerging Economies

Part of the series The Urban Book Series pp 267-282



  • Du The HuynhAffiliated withFulbright Economics Teaching Program Email author 
  • , José Gomez-IbañezAffiliated withHarvard University

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First-time visitors to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are invariably impressed by the seemingly endless flows of motorcycles. Motorcycles dominate because they are convenient and affordable for the citizens, especially given the urban spatial structure of the two cities. Municipal officials and planners have been concerned by the congestion created by motorcycles, however, and have sought in recent years to promote public transport as an alternative. Their efforts have not been very successful in part because the municipal governments in both cities have been reluctant to give buses priority in mixed traffic but also because the dispersed pattern of trips and the urban structure, with numerous narrow alleys, are hard to serve with public transport. We argue that planners ought to be less concerned with promoting public transit over motorcycles than they should be with discouraging a shift from motorcycles to cars. Car ownership will soon begin to expand rapidly as incomes continue to grow and it would be a disaster if a significant proportion of motorcycle riders switch to cars in a near future. Thus, it may be wise to give both buses and motorcycles priority over cars in the allocation of street space, and increase the cost of using private cars substantially.