The HCM City's administration on July 1 launched its latest effort to persuade large numbers of people to use public transportation and help ease traffic jams.

The campaign targets increasing the number of people using buses to 12 percent over the next five years, up from the current 7 percent. The country's biggest city has been experiencing chronic traffic congestion for several years now and experts have attributed this to the rapid growth in private vehicles.

Around 100 new cars and 1,300 motorcycles are added to the city's traffic every day, and while vehicle numbers surge, infrastructure development has failed to keep up, analysts have said.

The city is planning to build six metro lines and 10 monorail routes, but if there is no breakthrough development over the next decade or so, the public transportation system would remain mainly dependant on buses, according to Le Trung Tinh, head of the Transport Management office under the Department of Transport.

The new campaign will be carried out in two stages.

The first, from July to December, will persuade Party members, Government workers and students to commute by bus as much as possible, starting with at least once a week. In the second phase, to be implemented over four years from December, all city residents will be encouraged to do the same.

The People's Committee has asked State-owned companies and organisations to add new disciplinary criteria to their annual appraisal, that would hail and award staff who use the bus often.

The Department of Transport had already run a campaign to encourage State employees to take the bus, but it failed to achieve its aims.

The latest move, run by the People's Committee, is expected to be more effective.

A steering committee, led by People's Committee deputy chairman Nguyen Thanh Tai, has been set up to monitor and make adjustments as needed to the campaign's implementation, said Tinh.

This oversight, together with improvements in the quality of buses as well as services provided on them, would hopefully make the campaign successful, he added.

The target of having 12 percent of commuters use buses in five years is 3 percent lower than the goal set by the resolution of the HCM City Party's Committee, but even this is not an easy task given the degradation of the existing bus system and the constantly growing number of private vehicles.

The HCM City Centre for Public Transport Management said buses were struggling to be punctual because of the clogged roads.

The People's Committee has ordered the DoT to improve bus services and resolve problems like the illegal encroachment of pavements near bus stations.

The transport department is adding 1,680 new buses to its fleet, said Tinh.

He also said that the Sai Gon Bus Corporation will put into operation 50 buses running on compressed natural gas (CNG), a cleaner fuel than petrol. To encourage investors to buy CNG buses, the People's Committee is considering a slew of incentives.

The municipal administration has affirmed that it will continue providing financial assistance to bus companies in order to encourage investment in this field.

The quality of service and the behaviour of drivers and their assistants, a source of many public complaints, will also be improved, Tinh promised./.