I read with interest Phnom Penh city's plan to ban private vehicles in conjunction
with a bus service and park and ride lots (Post, March 26).
While the latter is a good idea, the former, banning private cars, will never work
for several reasons.
First, people who drive cars do so for the comfort and convenience, the vast majority
will never get out of their cars and take the bus into town even if the buses were
free. They will either pay bribes or fines (and be angry about it) or they will simply
not come, with the result that Phnom Penh's businesses will suffer.
Certainly if I was the owner of Surya Mall I would be very concerned.
The only cities I am aware of that have private car restrictions are London and Singapore,
but both places only ban or restrict vehicles from very small downtown areas.
Furthermore, both cities are wealthy, with much worse traffic problems than Phnom
Penh's, and both are far more organized and capable of enforcing the rules.
If our police cannot even stop drivers from crashing red lights - a very big cause
of traffic congestion - how will they enforce such a blanket vehicle ban? While the
parking lots and bus system are both excellent ideas, traffic coming from outside
is minor compared to that generated within Phnom Penh, therefore a comprehensive
city bus system is much more important than the suburban commuter buses planned.
Cambodia should look to the Philippines and its Jeepney minibus system as a model
for public transit.
Jeepneys are individually owned but they operate on fixed routes without public subsidy
and provide urban transportation in the range of 500 to 600 riel equivalent.
A minibus system should be very easy to set up.
The city would lay out the routes, establish basic rules and fares and sell low-cost
permits to anyone who wants to provide service.
The more the city is able to replace motorbikes with multi-passenger vehicles the
better off it will be in terms of congestion, accidents and serious injuries.
Stan Kahn - (by email)