A dearth of available parking space in Ho Chi Minh City has caused taxi drivers to stop wherever they can and occupy roads citywide, despite no-parking signs and traffic cops ready to hand out fines.
Cabbies know the streets where parking is prohibited, and have to work with police on a frequent basis, but “we have no other choice,” a taxi dispatcher from cab company Vinasun admitted to Tuoi Tre(Youth) newspaper.
A long line of up to seven Vinasun taxis can usually be found waiting along the sidewalk on Bui Thi Xuan Street in District 1, even though parking is not allowed between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm any day.
In other no-parking streets such as Le Quy Don in District 3 and Bach Dang in Tan Binh District, cabs occupy the roads on a daily basis and seem unfazed by civil penalties for traffic violations.
Other vehicles, from motorbikes and cars to buses, often have to ‘crawl’ inch by inch to pass streets like these to avoid the parked cabs.
The District 3 unit of city traffic police have frequently cracked down on illegally parked vehicles on Le Quy Don Street and lately fined dozens of cabs operated by the 27-7 Transportation Cooperative.
“The taxis will just return to park on the street whenever the police are out of sight,” an attendant at the nearby War Remnants Museum revealed.
Nguyen Dinh Duong, head of the traffic police unit of Tan Binh District, admitted that the area is short on parking space, so taxis have no choice but to defy parking bans.
Bach Dang Street leads to Tan Son Nhat International Airport, where there is a huge demand for cabs.
“So many taxi drivers just park where they are not allowed to, and deal with traffic police later,” Duong said.
In addition, taxi drivers frequently resist bans to park in front of hotels, hospitals, trade centers and office buildings, where demand for them is high.
Some taxi firms even sign contracts with hotels to be entitled to preferred pick-up service for passengers there.
For example, the Harmony Saigon Hotel on Bui Thi Xuan Street has signed an agreement to give priority for Vinasun cabs to receive its guests.
“But Vinasun should be responsible for the traffic violations of its cabbies, not the hotel,” Nguyen Thanh Tuan, managing director of Harmony Saigon, said.
Similarly, Mekong Maternity Hospital has made agreements with both Vinasun and Mai Linh, whereby it will “create conditions” for the two taxi firms to operate in front of its premises.
The hospital will receive VND10 million (US$446) a month each from the cab operators for creating these favorable conditions.
Ho Chi Minh City traffic police have handled more than 18,300 violations of the parking rules in the year to date, according to the unit head, Col. Tran Thanh Tra.
“We are determined to sweep out such violators with more crackdowns from now until the end of this year,” Col. Tra told Tuoi Tre.
The city’s transport department said it is preparing a new plan for the taxi sector, with a focus on the issue of parking.
“The plan seeks to allocate parking space to taxis so that they will not affect traffic,” Le Hoang Minh, deputy director of the department, told Tuoi Tre.