Hanoi cannot ban residents from buying automobiles, but it can determine whether the vehicles are allowed to operate in the inner city, said the chairman of the municipal People's Council's legislative committee, Nguyen Hoai Nam, in a meeting last week.

The meeting is held to collect input from relevant agencies for a draft project to limit private vehicles in downtown areas in five major cities around the country, including Hanoi , Ho Chi Minh City , Da Nang , Hai Phong and Can Tho. The project will also promote public transit development.

"The Government has assigned municipal People's Councils to collect public input about the project," said Nam . "The project's aims should be made clear to residents."

Elements of the project, to be implemented by 2016, included increased parking fees and traffic fines, banning parking along some routes, and banning some kinds of vehicles outright on downtown streets to prevent traffic congestion. The cities will possibly apply higher fees to vehicles entering downtown areas during peak hours.

Col Tran Thuy, deputy chief of police in Hanoi , supported limiting automobiles on downtown streets by 2013-14, as well as limiting the use of homemade vehicles and more effectively regulating the use of sidewalks in downtown areas.

However, the deputy director of the municipal Department of Transport, Nguyen Xuan Tan, proposed eliminating a regulation that residents must demonstrate that they have parking spaces whenever they want to register an automobile.

The regulation has proved nearly impractical.

Tan also proposed abolishing the regulation that residents without a household registration book in the city must reside in the city at least five years before registering a private vehicle. The regulation has been easily circumvented by residents registering vehicles in other cities and provinces, according to Tan.

Tan also urged the draft project to designate specific road systems to be dedicated to buses and mass transit.

Hanoi People's Committee vice chairman Nguyen Van Khoi said the project should give greater priority to developing infrastructure and public transit rather than simply limiting private vehicles. Khoi also called for a plan for collecting fees from private vehicles entering the inner city.

The number of private vehicles has been increasing annually by 12-15 percent, according to the Ministry of Transport.-VNA