Who to blame for the traffic problems in Saigon?


Traffic Jams in Saigon

(Source: Thanh Nien News)

Many of us who have lived in Saigon for the last couple of years have definitely noticed the huge increase in traffic lately. More and more cars and motorbikes are clogging the narrow streets of Saigon with no relief in site. Traffic accidents are on the rise. Today alone, my elbow or arms were struck by another motorbike on three occasions. Yesterday, the number of times I was hit by a mirror or handlebar of another motorbike was 5. Oh yes, I do wear a helmet now. I do not feel safe without it anymore.

Who is to blame for the current traffic woes inside Saigon. Well, for one, WTO should get the partial blame for forcing Vietnam to lower tariffs on new cars and allowing the import of cheaper used cars. This has resulted in a huge increase of cars on the streets of Saigon. Even scarier, these ‘new’ cars are navigating the streets of Saigon like motorbikes resulting in more car to motorbike accidents. The drivers do not seem to care about the motorbikes anymore. Wear a helmet!

Another culprit to the worsening traffic situation in Saigon is the current regulation that allows Vietnamese to own more than one motorbike. Yeah, the law makes it easier for everyone to own a motorbike now, but the negative outcome of this law means that there will be more motorbikes on the road, literally. Before this regulation, one person could just own one motorbike. A great way to cut down on the number of motorbikes on the road. Excellent way to control pollution.

The Fatherland Front, an umbrella organization of social and political groups, is blaming poor traffic planning. In their words, Front members blamed the “traffic maze” on city authority’ “short vision and careless management.” According to the Thanh Nien News:

The People’s Committee blamed the deteriorating situation on the growing number of vehicles, increasing population, unfinished construction projects and people’s lack of awareness on traffic regulations.

The Front suggested increasing traffic fines for violators, reorganizing work and school hours in traffic-congested areas, increase traffic police patrols and educating people on traffic regulations.

Will their recommendations be heeded? Right now, only time will tell but as every commuter in Saigon knows, it needs to be dealt with now.

Read more here -> Front blames city leaders’ narrow vision for traffic woes


  1. Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong…they don’t have these problems. 30 years of totally misguided government are to blame. Saigon should have had a subway system and other mass transit 20 years ago. I must agree with the Fatherland Front that poor (actually, nonexistant) traffic planning is the problem. Short vision and careless management pretty much describe the entire government of Vietnam. But I am growing to like goi cuon’ quite a bit! 🙂

    I am teaching Trang how to drive. Will buy her a Volkswagon Beetle soon. Stay off the sidewalks next time you come back to the US!

    Her mom was here for two weeks a week ago. That was a fun time. They had a blast.

  2. It’s kinda silly to say that Saigon should have a subway system 20 years ago when one stands back and realize that 20 years ago the average Saigonese was eating via the ration coupon.

    Unless the infrastructure exists from long ago, or it is built prior to the city itself growing over it, subway systems are primarily boondoggles for the local polticos – see the situation in Seattle, WA for instance. Their extended skyway will be inefficient and ultimately wasteful. Mass transit via buses are much more reasonable, but that just isn’t a sexy solution.

    What about Vietnam? Well, for one they should enforce traffic rules more stridently. It’s not going to end congestion, but it will improve the road’s volume handling and ease stress on the commuters.

    Any major city will have traffic problems – look at the congestion tax in London and the one tried in NYC. You may try and alleviate it through some planning – Hanoi has recently banned cyclos during the morning and evening rush, and made a number of streets one-way only to manage traffic. But I’m a free market guy, so people should be allowed to own as many motorbikes as they want and the car tax is obscene and should be ratcheted down. Unduly regulations just wedges a false externality into the problem.

    One way that the free market has tried to accommodate the traffic in Hanoi is with new office towers being built 25 minutes from the CBD. When the traffic causes the CBD to be overcrowded, micro cities will spring up in the suburbs to handle the people.
    Unfortunately for Vietnam, the a lot of the roads in Saigon and Hanoi are too narrow for buses. I know Saigon is trying for a subway, but they should scrap that and build underground tunnels for buses – sorta like Seattle’s system (man, I sound like I’m from there).

    Dang, this is as long as my blog posts…

  3. “It’s kinda silly to say that Saigon should have a subway system 20 years ago when one stands back and realize that 20 years ago the average Saigonese was eating via the ration coupon.”

    You have made my point for me. They must now reap what they have sown.

    I have ridden the subway systems in Boston, New York, Washington DC, London, Hong Kong, and Singapore. They are definitely not just boondoggles. Ask the average Londoner what their city would do without “The Tube”. They would never suggest it was a waste of effort. And I’m sure the other cities would say the same. Bus tunnels are much bigger and more expensive to dig and do not move nearly as many people as a train system which is guaranteed never to gridlock. All of those cities existed before the subway and the subway was dug underneath. The congestion tax in London seems to be working great. I’m not familiar with how the one in NYC turned out.

  4. Traffic planning, I love this topic 🙂

    I had a roommate at the University of Washington who works for the Washington State DOT. He told me that there was a traffic plan to alleviate the traffic congestion in Seattle. It meant constructing another freeway along the eastern shores of Lake Washington. Of course, for obvious reasons, the plan was rejected. The property is quite valuable in that area. Now, like Saigon, Seattle suffers for it with no real solution.

    The Monorail is a joke. I am glad it will not be extended. The Light Rail will help reduce traffic to the Univ. of Washington which is a big culprit of the traffic jam near the University District. The Bus Tunnels do help keep the buses off the city streets but not by much and Tracy is right, they cost too damn much.

    For now, I think city planners should build an elevated freeway along NKKN/Nguyen Van Troi for the traffic that just wants to go to the airport or outside parts of the city with limited on and off ramps. I think an elevated light rail would be alright for the city as well. Just my opinion. Toll roads could help too 🙂

    I am from Seattle D 🙂

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