Megacity Sustainable Transportation System: Bangkok Mass Transit Systems, Thailand

Megacity Sustainable Transportation System Reducing Traffic Congestion, Decreasing Emissions, and Improving Air Quality and Public Mobility: Bangkok’s Mass Transit Systems, Thailand.

Bangkok Sky Train, Bangkok, Thailand, December 20, 2011

Bangkok Metropolitan Transportation System:
The Bangkok Metropolitan Region (BMR) is centered on the City of Bangkok, the nation’s capital but also includes five neighboring provinces. Bangkok , a small compact city located on the eastern bank of the Chao Praya River, has grown rapidly since the early 1970s to a large sprawling urban area covering over 2,000 sq km. In 2000, the BMR’s population was estimated as 11.4 million. Per capita Gross Regional Product (GRP) in the BMR is 2.4 times greater than that for the whole country. Buses are the backbone of the passenger transportation system in Bangkok, accounting for more than 50% of all passenger trips, and 75% of trips during the peak period.

Elevated Sky Train, Sukhumvit MRT Station, Bangkok, Thailand, December 14, 2011

Bangkok’s first MRT, the US$ 1.7B Bangkok Transit System (BTS), was officially opened on December 5, 1999 by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The BTS consisted of two lines totaling 23.5km, has 23 stations and traverses some of Bangkok’s busiest streets and activity centers. The second MRT system – the Blue Line subway – is the 20km underground system (Metro), constructed by a private consortium under a concession to the Mass Rapid Transit Authority (MRTA). The metro system opened in 2004.

Bangkok Mass Transit Authority – Metro, Sky Train, and Bus Mass Transit Systems, Bangkok, Thailand:

  • The Bangkok Transit System (BTS), commonly known as the BTS Skytrain is an elevated mass rapid transit (MRT) system. It is operated by Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited (BTSC) under a concession granted by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
    The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), known as the Bangkok Metro, is Bangkok’s underground metro system. It was constructed under a concession concept. For the first MRT line, officially known as Chaloem Ratchamongkhon or informally as the “Blue Line”, most civil infrastructure were provided by the government sector, Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA), and handed over to their concessionaire under a 25-year concession agreement. Bangkok Metro Company Limited (BMCL) is the only private sector company that won a bid in MRTA’s concession contract for the blue line.
    A regular bus service is provided by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) and it operates throughout Bangkok as well as to adjoining provinces around the clock on certain routes. A related video is provided after BTS videos. (credit: Tim, M., December 5, 2011)
  • BTS Sky Train, December 18, 2009.
  • BTS Sky Train Metro at Chid Lom Skytrain station, Bangkok, April 1, 2011.
  • The BMTA operates a regular transit bus service throughout Bangkok as well as to adjoining provinces around the clock on certain routes. Some routes use double articulated buses with a capacity of 70-90 passengers. Operation of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines using dedicated buses started in 2010. The five BRT routes cover just over 110 kilometers. The routes can accommodate 50,000 passengers a day in the first year. Bangkok BRT south line video follows.
  • Public buses are plentiful and cheap, with a minimum fare of 7 baht (one dollar equaled 25 baht at the time) to most destinations within the metropolitan Bangkok. Air-conditioned buses have minimum and maximum fares of 11 and 24 baht, respectively. Air-conditioned micro-buses charge a flat fare of 25 baht all routes. Similarly, other mass transit systems in Bangkok (Metro and Sky Train) provide affordable fare for traveling public. This has eased traffic congestion and reduced transport related emissions in metropolitan Bangkok. (At one US dollar to approximately 30 baht, most fare is less than 1 US $.)

Dr. Uddin’s note: Historical Overview of Transportation in Bangkok – During my residence in Bangkok (1973-75) traffic flow in Bangkok was mostly satisfactory with excellent bus service. Rapid development in the city and urban sprawl degraded traffic flow and air quality, as I noticed during my brief visit there in 1980. Traffic gridlock and long peak hours increased sharply since then. Bangkok traffic congestion problems were reported in the 1990s by TIME magazine. Since early 1970s Thai authorities have been trying to plan and implement expressways and mass transit. As reported above, the mass transit system has remarkably improved in Bangkok metropolitan region due to expansion and private-public participation in bus transit and BRT, underground metro, elevated sky train, as well as a comprehensive vehicle emission testing program and introduction of natural gas vehicles (NGV) including buses and motor rickshaws. I observed these improvements in Bangkok transportation during my latest visit in December 2011. My humanitarian trip was primarily made to assess disruptions to academic programs and damages of infrastructures at the AIT campus after the 2011 mega flood devastation in Thailand.

Road Safety Concerns for Motor Cycles and Pedestrians in Bangkok – As seen in the following video and observed by me during December 2011 visit, an alarmingly high rate of road fatalities and injuries is associated with motor bike riders. During the 2011 Christmas and New Year week, 335 people were killed on roads including 80% motor bike riders. While the number of injuries reached 3,345 persons on the last day of the “seven high risk travel days.” Based on this tragic statistics, I recommend that the Bangkok government consider it as serious issue and implement solutions for orderly and safe travel by motor bikers through dedicated and/or priority lanes as well as police reinforcement on biker travel behavior.

Although, lots of pedestrian overhead crossings are available in the city center area but many other places, the median needs to be fenced so that pedestrians do not cross the road by walking over travel lanes. I recommend an aggressive driver and public education program for safe driving and safe pedestrian use of designated crossings.

Traffic in Bangkok

Bangkok Skyline, 2011 – (credit: The Chamaemelum on May 8, 2011)

2 thoughts on “Megacity Sustainable Transportation System: Bangkok Mass Transit Systems, Thailand”

  1. Dear Mr. Waheed Uddin. AA.
    First of all I want to thank you for your appreciation to the fine job done by the
    president of AITAA Mr.Thanin Bumrungsap for his help to get me the police certificate from Bangkok.
    Now I come to you for the fine works you are doing for which our country particularly the urban areas of Pakistan badly need for their mass transit to solve transport management and traffic congestion problems.I am failed to understand why our government does not utilise the experties of person of your caliber.
    I am practicing as a consulting structural engineer. My son is an Architect. We have small firm in Karachi-Pakistan in the name of M. Siddique Dawood and Associates.
    When You happen to come to Karachi, I may arrange your lacture on Mass Transit to the interest of consulting engineers through the Association of Consulting Engineers Pakistan. My phone no. is 923332158943.
    With best regards.
    Siddique Kesodia.

    1. Mr. Siddique Kesodia:
      Thanks very much for your kind words. More on Bangkok and AIT flood disaster mitigation.
      I will definitely get in touch with you if I get a chance to visit Karachi. In July 2010 I gave a public lecture in Karachi on Karachi metropolitan traffic management problems and technology solutions hosted by Mr. Arif Hassan’s Urban Resource Center. That was very well attended.
      Your architect son and you may be interested to read the following posts on my blog pages.

      I will welcome any feedback that you all may have through your blog comments. Best wishes.

      W. UDDIN

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