Hanoi’s new metro is fast and reliable, but many people are reluctant to make it their main means of daily commute saying the last mile is unaffordable.
Phuong Anh, 29 who lives within walking distance of the Cat Linh Station, was one of the first people to try the metro when it began operating earlier this month.
“But I only wanted to see what it was like; I don’t think I will be a regular passenger,” the accountant said.
This is because her office is two kilometers from the nearest station in Ha Dong District, which means she has to pay around VND60,000 ($2.65) daily for ride-hailing trips from and to the station.
This means, along with the VND200,000 metro fare, she would have to pay VND1.4 million a month for commuting to and from work.
“That is several times what I am paying for motorbike fuel. I don’t think I can afford that.”
She also finds the motorbike more convenient since it allows her to pull over at a minimart and pick up groceries on the way home.
The Cat Linh – Ha Dong metro is facing the challenging task of convincing Hanoians to abandon their motorbikes for more expensive public transport.
On the first day of ticket sales on Nov. 21, crowds no longer gathered unlike in the previous two weeks when tickets were free.
In the first four days the average number of commuters plunged by 12.7 percent to 16,590. This week, between Monday and Wednesday, only around 60 people traveled per trip against each train’s capacity of 960.
Duc Tuan of Ba Dinh District said: “I’d love to use the metro to avoid rain and traffic jams, but there is no way I can get to the stations without paying a lot”.
By using a combination of buses and the metro, he estimated he would have to spend VND550,000 a month, which is 2.5 times what motorbike fuel costs.
Besides, the buses too will be blocked in traffic, and the thought of waiting for both buses and trains daily discourages him.
“It is still much easier to use my own motorbike.”
Foreseeing high demand to travel the last mile to the stations, authorities have 53 bus routes running near the metro route. Parking lots have been set up at the last stations on the route.
Vu Hong Truong, director of Metro Hanoi, said: “A single metro route is not enough to radically resolve the traffic issues. That takes a network of metro lines”.
City authorities hope the metro will help reduce the chronic congestion caused by 5.7 million motorbikes and nearly 700,000 cars.
But experts said it requires much effort to change people’s habits.
“Authorities seem to focus too much on the metro that they forget that buses are the main means of public transport in a city,” architect and urban planner Ngo Viet Nam Son said.
To ensure that the metro attracts passengers, more buses solely meant for commuting to and from stations are needed, he said.
The metro fare should include bus fares, he said, pointing out that some countries give metro passengers an hour of free bus rides before and after a metro trip.
A single trip on the metro costs VND8,000-15,000, a 30-day pass is VND200,000 for regular passengers and VND100,000 for students and workers in industrial parks.
A spokesperson for the Hanoi Metro said the number is low because students have not returned to school due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For now Anh will only use the metro occasionally to go shopping or visit a friend who lives near a station. For daily commute, the motorbike is still her preferred vehicle.
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