So you think you know how to define traffic congestion? The head of the transport department in Ho Chi Minh City may make you doubt your knowledge.
While traffic congestion and gridlock are not uncommon in the crowded city, the municipal Department of Transport has asserted that there was no traffic jam that lasted for more than 30 minutes occurring in the first three quarters of 2015.
“There were only 18 cases of ‘heavy traffic’ in the first nine months of this year,” the department director Bui Xuan Cuong underlined at a press meeting on Tuesday.
Cuong went on to explain that a traffic jam is defined as a situation lasting for over 30 minutes in which “vehicles are at a complete standstill and unable to move at all during that period of time.”
With vehicles still moving forward, albeit very slowly, during what people normally call “traffic jams,” such situations are only seen as “heavy traffic” because riders are after all still able to move, the department head added.
The transport department thus proudly said in a report to recap the traffic situation in Ho Chi Minh City in the first nine months of the year that there was no congestion or gridlock, but only “heavy traffic,” in the city, which ignited a wave of online criticism against Cuong.
People are still able to move, so this is not a traffic jam.
With the new definition, people will no longer be able to blame traffic jams for their being late for work.
It took Pham Thi Khuyen 30 minutes to go from the Hang Xanh Roundabout to the Binh Trieu Bridge the other day, instead of five minutes as usual, but it would be wrong to say she was caught in a traffic jam as defined by the transport department.
“I was indeed able to move forward amid the sea of vehicles, but by only a few inches each time,” she mockingly said.
“So what else would I call it other than congestion?”
There were in fact many hours-long traffic jams occurring in Ho Chi Minh City this year.
On January 16, vehicles were stuck from 1:00 am to 1:00 pm near the RMK Intersection in Thu Duc District, as trailer trucks rushed to enter the Cat Lai Port.
On May 8, another gridlock because of the same reason happened near the Binh Thai Intersection in District 9, with vehicles coming to a standstill from 6:00 am to 10:00 am.
Traffic jams could cause damage of VND14 trillion (US$625 million) for the southern economic hub on an annual basis, according to a research conducted by the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology in 2007.
Dr. Nguyen Minh Hoa, dean of the Faculty of Urban Studies at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, revealed another estimated damage, some VND23 trillion ($1.2 billion), at a conference in September last year.