WITH the Skytrain network under expansion, the next step for transforming Bangkok into a smart city with so-called smart mobility is to better integrate bus services with the rail system, a senior transport planner said.
To achieve this, city’s public buses and their route connections need to be improved, said Chayatan Phromsorn, deputy director general of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP), under the Ministry of Transport.
“There are currently four Skytrain lines in operation throughout the city, covering a total of 120 kilometres, with seven additional lines under construction, which will cover up to 173 kilometres,” said Chayatan.
He was speaking yesterday at a seminar entitled “Transforming Thailand, Opening the Door to Economic Innovation”, which was organised by Thansettakij newspaper.
The four Skytrain lines have seen varying levels of traffic per day, from 740,000 passengers on the Green Line (Sukhumvit Line) to 50,000 on the Purple Line (Ratchadham Line), Chayatan said.
Among the Skytrain lines under development is the Red Line, which connects Bang Sue to Rangsit and Bang Sue to Taling Chan. The 26-kilometre Bang Sue-Rangsit route is 79 per cent complete, while the 15-kilometre Bang Sue-Taling Chan route has been completed. The Red Line is expected to open in 2020 and is expected to carry 300,000 passengers a day.
The Dark Blue Line, which connects Hua Lamphong to Bang Khae and Bang Sue to Tha Phra, is 95 per cent complete. The Hua Lamphong-Bang Khae route is expected to open this year, while the Bang Sue-Tha Phra route is planned to open in 2020. The Dark Blue Line is predicted to see some 490,000 travellers a day once fully opened, according to Chayatan.
“Now that these projects are in the wings, the next stage for improving Bangkok’s transportation infrastructure is to focus on the various feeders, the means by which the public can travel from their households to the Skytrain stations, and from the stations to their workplace or leisure destinations,” he said, adding that these developments are needed to tackle the capital’s traffic congestion and resulting air pollution.
Chayatan said the quality of Bangkok’s public buses is poor and they are relatively disconnected to other modes of transport. The buses should also function as feeders to connect local areas to the Skytrain stations and get more cars off the roads.
“Acting as feeders, the routes of public buses can be shortened, further reducing traffic and air pollution. From the shorter routes, buses can also have smaller sizes and the prospect of having electric buses throughout the city will become more achievable,” he said.
Manoj Lohatepanont, director of Chulalongkorn University’s Transportation Institute, said: “Bangkok covers around 1,600 square kilometres. When compared to the area that the Skytrain lines will cover, it is clear that expanding Skytrain routes alone is insufficient.
“The role of feeders will become crucial to improving the quality of Bangkok’s public transportation system.”
Manoj, who was also at the seminar, shared Chayatan’s concerns on the state of the city’s buses, labelling them as dirty, slow and not timely. These failings encouraged car use with ever worsening traffic and air pollution.
He suggested that, as in South Korea, public buses should be colour coded according to their roles. For example, buses that act as feeders to Skytrain stations, buses that run from the outer area of the city into the inner area, and those that run on elevated highways should have differentiated colour coding.