Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thanks ADB but it will take more than $2.8m to solve Asia's worsening transport crisis

Ambling through the narrow streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter a few weeks ago, I pondered how pleasant it was that Vietnam's capital was yet to be afflicted by the kind of traffic gridlock that blights most other developing Asian cities (take your pick from Bangkok, Dhaka, KL, Jakarta, Manila, Mumbai) .


But, reading a story in the Viet Nam News about the resilience of the latest car sales figures, I wondered what would happen if just 5 out of 100 motorbike users upgrade to a car in the next few years - with hardly any proper on or off-street parking and no major bypasses, traffic flow in Hanoi would be paralysed.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has just released a new report, which argues that "rapid urbanization and an unprecedented increase in private motorized transport, with some cities in the region experiencing a doubling of their fleets every two to three years, is creating an urban crisis".

The ADB is encouraging Asian governments to take the sort of approach used in Singapore, Hong Kong or Seoul, fostering "access" rather than just "mobility" by making it more expensive for people to own private vehicles and easier and more efficient for them to use public transport.

The ADB's lofty aim is to "develop energy-efficient, clean, and inclusive urban transport systems that ensure accessibility for all".

That's great rhetoric. But how much money is the caring, sharing ADB willing to put behind this ambitious new strategy?

A measly $2.8m.

Yes, that's not a typo, that's $2.8m. Better get ready for more traffic jams, then.

Pic of Dhaka jam courtesy of Flickr user joiseyshowaa.

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