Bangkok Buses and BRT News 2004

Current bus news

Traffic Police HQ:"No bus lanes for Lad Phrao, Sukhumvit, Phetburi and Phetkasem"
- translated and summarized from Matichon, June 17, 2004
The Traffic Police Office said bus lanes work only on one-way roads with multiple lanes (e.g. Lan Luang, Ratchasima, and Samsen). On major roads such as Lad Phrao, Phetkasem, Phetburi and Sukhumvit, the bus lanes are a total failure as the traffic police have experienced. However Minister Nikorn (who is taking charge on BMTA) has asked BMTA to revive bus lanes and Traffic Police to reinforce the regulation on bus lanes on 15 major roads.
1. Phaholyothin (Saphan Mai - Victory Monument - 16.3 km)
2. Phayathai (Victory Monument - Samyan - 3.5 km)
3. Ram Indra (Laksi Circle - Fashion Island - 10.3 km)
4. Rattnathibet (Kae Rai - Sanambin Nam - 4 km)
5. Ngam Wongwan (Kaet - Kae Rai - 6 km)
6. Ram Khamhaeng (Phatthanakarn - Kanchanaphisek [Summakorn village] - 13.1 km)
7. Lad Phrao (Bangkapi - Lad Phrao - 10.6 km)
8. Phetburi (Klongtan - Uruphongse - 8.6 km)
9. Rama 4 (Hua Lamphong - Phra Khanong Station - 8.7 km)
10. Sukhumvit (Samrong - Ploenchit - 14.7 km)
11. Suksawat (Phrapadaeng - Bang Pakaeo - 3.6 km)
12. Taksin Road (Bang Pakaeo - Wongwian Yai - 3.6 km)
13. Intharaphithak (Wongwian Yai - Tha Phra - 0.7 km
14. Phetkasem (Bang Yee Ruea - Phutthamonthon Sai 2 - 13.3 km)
15. Charansanitwongse (Tha Phra - Rama 7 - 10.4 km)
Commentary by Wisarut: Sukhumnvit (Onnut - Samrong - Paknam),
Lad Phao (Lad Prhao Station - Bang Kapi - NIDA - Panasonic with option feeder bus to Minburi-Suan Siam),
Taksin-Suksawat (Wongwian Yai-Prha Padaeng),
Charansanitwognse (Bang Or -Tha Phra -> with feeder bus Option to Rama 7-KMITNB),
Phetkasem (Tha Phra - Phutthamonthon Sai 2 - with feeder bus option to Siriraj),
Ram Khamhaeng (Nawasri - Summakorn - with feeder bus to Phatthanakarn- Lad Krabang),
Ngam Wongwan-Nawamin (Nawamin - Kasent - Phongphet - Kae Rai),
Rattnathibet (Kae Rai - Bang Yai)
deserve Skytrain-Subway Extensions and new lines immediately--not that cheap bus lane or even trolley bus solutions.

Bus rapid transit as the substitute for Skytrain - speedy implementation and much cheaper - translated and summarized from Dailynews, June 23, 2004
The Traffic Policy Office and the consultants have called a meeting at Chao Phraya park at 9am June 22 about the plan to improve BMTA bus system The consultant is consisted of Dr Samart Rajpolasit (expert in Mass transit system, Engineering Institute of Thailand) and Mr Patcharee Siroroj (consultant for organizing) and Mr Somphong Sirisophonsilp (traffic engineer).
After this 2nd discussion, they found that BMTA bus reorganization is the big priority after BTSC has been transferred to MRTA. Therefore the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system has to be introduce a feeder network for sections out of the Skytrain-Subway's reaches. Seven lines are under consideration:
1. Talingchan - Phatthanakarn
2. Rangsit - Dindaeng
3. Bang Yai (Western Kanchanaphisek) - Kaset
4. Minburi - Samut Prakarn
[The other three are not mentioned.]
The lines that pass Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road are the sections to be experimented with first since the are very few cars there and there are virtually no BMTA busses or private concession bus running. When BRT becomes successful, it will be expanded.
All 7 lines with total distance of 228 km will cost the government only 1.2 billion baht. The same 1.2 billion baht could construct only 1 km of Skytrain tracks.
This has to be run as a part of BMA controlled by the Committee of Bangkok and Vicinity Mass Transit System headed by Bangkok Governor. This is the way to comply with the Decentralization Act and the way to reorganize BMTA busses. The final result of this plan will be delivered by the end of July.

Temporary Southern Bus Terminal at Phutthamonthon Sai 3 - translated and summarized from Manager Daily, June 15, 2004
MOTC is going to move the Southern Bus terminal to a temporary site at Phutthamonthon Sai 3 Road until the new Southern Bus terminal at Wutthakart is finished. The temporary site is private land, but MOTC will not allow fee collecting for the presence of taxis, motorcycles, van or bus. This temporary site will be used until the new Taksin Southern Bus terminal at Wutthakart is done along with the red line commuter networks.
Note: A webboard response is here.

How to reform buses - summarized by Pas Seangsong from Engineering World Magazine, March 30, 2004

Ed.: Someone is really pushing this 'busways' plan for Bangkok. A year ago it had never been mentioned. first mentioned the TransJakarta Busway on January 29, 2004 at about the same time the Thai press reported on a flurry of press releases about busways for Bangkok. Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa also visited Bangkok to promote the idea.
Many Thais are skeptical though, believing that bus rapid transit benefits government ministers with interests in businesses related to cars and buses--again at the expense of fixed mass rapid transit which is controlled mainly by opposition figures and businesses. There is also a belief that foreign 'experts' are helping push a busways plan not suitable for Bangkok's roads.

Pas of Bangkok Highrises writes: Speaking of the Mass Transit revolution, I read an interesting article called "Transit Reform in Bangkok" published in Engineering World Magazine (February-March 2004). This article is written by Karl Fjellstorm, the Project Coordinator of Sustainable Urban Transport - Asia Project. Here is a summation:

Background on Bangkok buses
Around 20 million motorized trips are taken daily in Bangkok, around half of these trips use various public transport mode.
City buses are the backbone of Bangkok's Transport system, carrying around 90% of all public transport trips. Only 5% of the trips are carried by rail (skytrain and SRT's commuter trains combined), the remainder by taxi, ferry and tuk tuks and motorcycle taxis. In February 2003 Prime Minister Taksin issued a three-month dateline for the reform of the Bangkok Metropolitan Transit Authority (BMTA). The matter of concern has been the losses incurred by BMTA and the low quality of services... BMTA currently operates at a annual loss of 3 billion baht (US $76.088 million).
The Thaksin government has also approved a 198km Bus Rapid Transit system and planned to corporatised BMTA. Bus systems improvements are essential to effective model integration between buses and trains and therefore optimizing the large investments in rail infrastructure.
*Overview of Bus Sector*
Current composition of Bangkok's bus industry:
Air-con large bus fleet: 2662
Regular large bus fleet: 4048
Air-con Microbus: 884
Non a/c microbus: 1176
Small lane minibuses: 3451
Passenger vans: Surprisingly there are by far more air conditioned passengers vans (even though passenger van was only legalized in 1999 - city wide - fleet estimated at 9500 vehicles, 4600 of which are licensed).
BMTA buses were created by Royal Decree in 1976 to take over bus services within Bangkok.. Private bus companies that were not taken over continue as "joint service operators" under sub-licensing agreements with BMTA. Minibuses and passenger vans have subsequently been added as joint service partners of BMTA.
Private operators now operate around 40% of BMTA buses, vans & minibuses. BMTA retains around 3/4 of the air con bus fleet while regular bus fleet (currently made up around 40% of all buses) is being phased out. Air-conditioned routes are more profitable than the regular fleet (fare per a/c trips is about 6 times greater than regular service, costs of operating each a/c buses is less than twice the costs for each regular buses).
The author noted that "the current bus system is unable to meet the changing mobility needs of the citizens of Bangkok, and the large bus sector is losing passengers at a rapid rate".
How BMTA can reduce costs
How operational costs can be reduced--from German Technical Cooperation Group (GTZ):
- private operators should be released from the BMTA sub-licenses and BMTA's regulatory power should be removed
- BMTA should be forced to reduce operating costs
- BMTA's historical, accumulated debt should be transferred to the government
- A new competent regulatory body, independent of operation should be set up to monitor, plan and regulate all modes of public transport.
- There is no competition in the current bus system since private operators must follow the routes, timetables and fares dictated by BMTA. Ultimately the private industry need to be restructured and consolidate to hold route franchises and take over responsibility for service development.
Proliferation of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Bangkok?
- Recent World Bank funded "Bangkok Air Quality Management Plan" recommended a 110km of exclusive busways along major roads.
- The designer of TransMilio BRT system in Bogota, Colombia and the former Mayor of Bogota recently visited Bangkok to promote the BRT concept which proved very successful in the City of Bogota.
- In November 2003 a high level committee chaired by PM Taksin approved a 198km BRT network in Bangkok which is to be completed in two years.
- the Sustainable Urban Transport - Asia project (partnership between GTZ, UNESCAP, BMA and CITYNET) have held meetings, seminars to promote BRT as cost-effective mass transit option for Bangkok which can be rapidly implemented and can supplement and extend the rail-based network (more info
- BRT is current in operation in many Asian cities including Kunming, Taipei, Shijiazhuang, Jakarta and several Japanese cities; currently in advanced planning in Delhi, Seoul; in Planning in Bangkok, Huai An (Vietnam) and Chinese cities (Chengdu, Chongquing, Xi'an, T'aichung, T'ainan)

Commentary by Pas: For more info of Sustainable Urban Transport - Asia Project visit their website. SUT is a joint project between BMA, UNESCAP, CITINET and GTZ - the German Technical Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH).
The BRT system proposed for Bangkok is modeled on the TransMilenio system currently in used in Bogota, Colombia. The article did not mention another example of a low cost BRT system in Curitiba (Brazil) which is world renowned.

More on the planned southern bus terminal - translated and summarized from Matichon Daily, March 11, 2004.
The estimated cost for the Southern Bangkok Bus Terminal will be 7.9847 billion baht -> consisting of a complex within 75 rai of land for a service center, public park convention center, and park and ride for 634 cars. The construction alone costs 4.9122 billion baht while land expropriation is 1.068 billion baht (subtotal for the complex is 5.9802 billion baht). The terminal itself will occupy another 50 rai of land with a park and ride for 280 cars and a terminal. Construction cost will be 1.2925 billion baht and land expropriation of 0.712 billion baht with total 2.0045 billion baht.
Commentary by Wisarut: They better try not to grab the temple lands if possible since there are several temples with historical significance.

Surveying land for the Southern Bangkok Transport Terminal - translated and summarized from Thairath, March 10, 2004 and Dailynews, March 10, 2004
The resolution from Traffic Policy Office stated that the Southern Bus Terminal must be moved from Talingchan to Taksin Center and the office has asked BMA and the Land Transportation Department to expropriate and construct the Taksin Center with the preliminary budget of 36 million baht to BMA for demarcating the land to be expropriated before issuing a Royal decree to reinforce the land expatriation.
The land for Taksin Center will be 200 rai -> 50 rai for Transportation Co.Ltd. for service area, building, park and ride. The construction budget will be 1.2925 billion baht and the land expropriation of 0.712 billion baht (total 2.0045 billion baht). There will be 6-square km area to be studied.
Northern Section - Phetkasem 36m Bangchak Canal, Phetkasem 25/1, the intersection between Soi Watnang Chee and Phatthanakarn Road, Wat Nanagchee canal, Bang Khunthiaqn canal and Thoedthai Road
Eastern Section - Ratchadaphisek (near Talad Ploo Station), Soi Ratchadaphisek 11, private road and Bang Sakae canal Southern Section - Soi Loedphatthana Nuea, Chomthong, Rang Bua canal Western section - Yai Sai canal, Bang Wah canal and Phetkasem Road
The new road around this center is a must to facilitate movement and another 10 billion baht is needed to build this road. The new Southern bus terminal will move to Taksin center only after Taksin center has been developed. The Red line commuter and the Skytrain extension will help a lot as well.
The current Southern bus terminal is the donated land to Transportation Co.Ltd. in a very congested area. After moving the Southern bus terminal to Taksin Center, only western bound routes will use Taksin Center.

Bus Rapid Transit--'Yes' for shortened routes, 'No' for becoming a part of BMA - translated and summarized from Naew Na, February 17, 2004
After Traffic Policy Office has asked BMTA to run Bus Rapid Transit along eight proposed routes, BMTA said they are ready to handle such a task. However, BMA prefers to go into very dense traffic routes such as Phetkasem, Lad Phrao and Sukhumvit. Furthermore, the route must be shortened. The assigned routes are too long to handle. The route must go from one end to another end without interruption or interchanges. The intersections must have feeder minibus or 2-row buses to feed the system instead of having interchanges which force the passengers to wait for their next bus.
Furthermore, BMTA refuses to be transferred into BMA. Even a 1 baht subsidy is not enough since the operating cost is now 8 baht, not 6 baht as Governor Samak claimed.
The eight bus rapid transit routes are:
1) Talingchan - Phatthanakarn
2) Rangsit - Din Daeng
3) Minburi - Samut Prakarn (via Sri Nakahrin)
4) Minburi - Rama 5 (via Lad Phrao Road)
5) Rama 2 - Wong Wian Yai (Taksin Road)
6) Kaset - Western Kanchanaphisek Road
7) Prapa Canal - Phitsanulok Road (near Si Sao Thewet Intersection)
8) Phrasamut Chedi - Prachathipok (on Suksawat Road)
Commentary by Wisarut: Many people who live along Lad Phrao Road, Sri Nakharin Road, and Ram Indra Road are desperate for a new line of Skytrain or Subway and consider a Skytrain-Subway line as the only solution for their problems. Furthermore, they consider Bus Rapid Transit along the road near their homes a very shoddy solution. Look at the following post and you will see (in Thai):
If people from Lad Phrao - Bang Kapi - Sri Nakharin area make a very loud cry for a Skytrain-Subway, Minister Suriya could point out that this justifies the canceled Yellow Line.
I wonder how the Traffic Policy Office came up with those original eight routes in the first place. Many of those routes do deserve a Skytrain-Subway line instead of a shoddy solution like this.

Clarifying the 'hot buses' - February 13, 2004
Last week we pointed the moves to eliminate the non-aircon buses:
Hot Buses out: The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority has been told to replace ordinary buses in the capital with new air-conditioned buses over the next two years... Ordinary buses would be phased out in Bangkok within two years, while fares for air-conditioned buses would be cut to 7-10 baht.

Wisarut added some further clarification to this story by noting that blue non-aircon buses are not covered by the plan. BMTA only handles 28% of Bangkok-area buses. Other are controlled by private concessionaires associated by powerful political families and will not be impacted by the change. These localized political parties are ones TRT has vowed to either absorb or break.

Bangkok learning from Bogota? - February 2, 2004
Discuss these stories on the Forum

Renier informs us that former Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa has been in town promoting Bogota's busways plan for Bangkok (Bangkok learns from Bogota on developing long term solutions to urban transport problems, UN ESCAP News Services, January 26, 2004) at both a conference at the UN and at the Foreign Correspondence Club of Thailand (FCCT). This is quite a coincidence considering the government just announced eight busway lines. The organization that brought the mayor here is SUTP-Asia. "Key involved organizations" are GTZ Clean Air Project in Malaysia, CITYNET, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), and UNESCAP. They also have an explanation of what exactly busways are. Maybe we are part of the conspiracy too because we mentioned the The TransJakarta Busway on January 29, 2004.

Non-aircon buses - February 2, 2004
There seems to be a "Tale of two newspapers" story about the future of buses. It is more like that the Transport Minister's plan will be implemented, rather than the lame-duck Bangkok Governor's:

Hot Buses out: The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority has been told to replace ordinary buses in the capital with new air-conditioned buses over the next two years. Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit said he wanted to phase out ordinary buses slowly as many commuters were unable to afford the air-con fares of 8-22 baht. ''With cheaper air-conditioned buses, we can lower fares, and ordinary buses can be gradually decommissioned,'' he said. Ordinary buses would be phased out in Bangkok within two years, while fares for air-conditioned buses would be cut to 7-10 baht. Bus reorganization - translated and summarized from Thairath, February 2, 2004
Governor Samak is asking MOTC and MOF to transfer all non-airconditioned BMTA buses to BMA. BMA will either run 15% of the non-airconditioned bus while granting a concession for the rest or running 100% of the buses with the flat rate of five baht with 50 satang subsidies from BMA and another 50 satang from the government to prevent heavy loss.

Eight lines of bus rapid transit in the middle of the road - translated and summarized from Thairath, January 30, 2004

The Traffic Policy Office is asking BMTA to run the eight new bus rapid transit lines. These are air-conditioned buses running in the middle of the road with the privilege of running through red lights and driving along a dedicated lane. It would have a joint ticket with other mass transit systems and carry 35,000 passenger per hour per direction. This could be done without government subsidies. BMTA will have to run this company as a joint venture.
In the first phase, BMTA will have to transform into the new company by improving their balance sheet to become a money maker. After that, the new BMTA Co.Ltd. will come up with a concession covering seven areas and lines to connect with the other systems. The third phase will be a connection with the boat lines (Saensaeb canal boat and Chao Phraya Express) as well as to feed the Skytrain and subway.
There will be eight lines of this bus rapid Transit
1. Talingchan - Phatthanakarn
2. Rangsit - Din Daeng
3. Minburi - Samut Prakarn via Sri Nakharin
4. Minburi - Rama 5 Road via Lad Phrao
5. Rama 2 - Wongwian Yai (Taksin Road)
6. Kaset - Kanchanaphisek Road
7. Prapa canal - Phitsanulok Road
8. Phra Samut chedi - Prachadhipok (via Suksawat Road)

The TransJakarta Busway - January 29, 2004
News from our neighbors: The idea sounds interesting--make buses like the cars in a fixed mass transit system. People enter the buses through gates and walk directly onto the bus (instead of climbing stairs). However, this new system in downtown Jakarta has apparently received nothing but criticism. Special rules for cars driving in downtown areas are also a part of Jakarta's traffic strategy. Such vehicle exclusion rules were once discussed as part of the solution for Bangkok, but no action was ever taken. Anyone have photos of the TransJakarta Busway? We think this is the official website.
A few news items about the busway: ...Busway - no way, reads the graffiti scrawled on bus shelters and concrete barriers along Jalan Sudirman, Jakarta's busy commercial thoroughfare. The graffiti and extended traffic jams began appearing in the capital weeks before Indonesia's most controversial transport project - a 13km-long bus route - began operating. Also on the increase are jokis - unemployed women and teenagers who, for a few thousand rupiah, hire themselves out as passengers so drivers can beat the new restrictions allowing only cars with two or more passengers to use certain main routes. A week into the operation of the bus lanes, and three weeks after the restrictions on cars - in an effort to combat congestion - it seems that few of Jakarta's wealthy are abandoning their vehicles. Traffic clogs the city's main roads until 9pm, and a 13km trip through the city that used to take 30 minutes now takes twice as long. (South China Morning Post, January 21, 2004).
Jakarta busway packed with people - The TransJakarta Busway, which was opened on Thursday morning, has been welcomed by Jakartans. ANTARA reported here that brand new air-conditioned buses, plying the route from Blok M in South Jakarta to Kota in North Jakarta, were packed by passengers. Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso, along with his wife and daughter, queued up at the Bung Karno bus stop in South Jakarta to enjoy the new transportation system. (Antara Interactive, January 15, 2004)
Busway Could be Delayed - Sutiyoso has also been criticized over his plan to increase the city’s “three-in-one” traffic policy from 6.30am to 8pm. Under the policy, motorists will only be allowed to drive on the main streets of the busway corridor if their vehicle contains at least three people. The three-in-one system, which has been implemented for several years during morning peak traffic hours, is widely regarded as a failure, as motorists simply hire so-called “jockeys” – youths standing at the entrances of the restricted zones – in order to make up the numbers. ( <-kind of like a for Indonesia, December 19, 2003)
Also: Proposed Jakarta monorail project with Malaysian firm in a glitch - Utusan, January 20, 2004

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