Traffic congestion in Bangkok has been known as a state dilemma by government officials and as one of the most challenging social problems of the public. Bangkok people travel on streets at a pace of less than 10 kilometers per hour in the central area throughout peak hours and this negatively affects not only the traveler’s temper, but also the state economy.
For the past 20 years, the Thai government has been spending a great deal on a road network system. It is intended to help ease traffic problems in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region (BMR), which includes the city of Bangkok and its nearby provinces, namely Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi, Pathumthani, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Sakhon. This plan has led to the nonstop growth of sub-urban jobs and housing as well as a rising population and economic activities. It has thus set off a great deal of journey between city centers and the new sub-urban areas of BMR, but road users have been experiencing traffic jams all over. The World Bank employed German specialists to assess Bangkok’s traffic troubles. The end point “Bangkok Transportation Study ” in 1971 emphasized that Bangkok, even then, severely required a mass transit system, as well as a city study diagram. Neither was ever drawn up and at present Bangkok is one of the world’s most greatly crowded cities, with perhaps, its most terrible traffic. Bangkok’s traffic condition is hopeless. And so far the crisis has never been correctly examined. The present disorder is an unavoidable effect of a continuous mixture of half-measures, incorrect measures, and no measures. Increasing accessible roads, for instance, only causes additional jamming due to disorganized, obstacle-course construction that damages at least as much as it assists. It also pushes people to set more cars on the roads. Suggestions on how to get better Bangkok’s traffic troubles go on to thrive: a subway system, a sky train, and a waterway system. Practical options to cars and motorbikes must be presented; specialists are wanted, as are more traffic statistics, funds and a synchronized intergovernmental master plan (Kanchit et al, 1994 pp. 20-23).
Public transportation, particularly public buses, has lagged far behind the city’s population and business growth. This lack of different transport alternatives causes more and more people to obtain cars and motorbikes, thus creating a nonstop series of traffic beat.
In 1990, Bangkok motor vehicle registrations increased by 935 per day, or 341,275 motor vehicles in a single year. These included personal cars, public vehicles, motorcycles, trucks of all sizes, and buses. Private cars alone increased by 524 per day. By 1992, the number dropped a bit to the still astounding figure of 846 vehicles per day-232 being personal cars.
On the other hand, no latest progress or further actions for improving public transportation have been put into place. As a consequence, existing public transportation could not deal with the varying needs in BMR. Numerous commuters switched to personal vehicles and more and more people of BMR could no longer depend on bus service. As an outcome, a van transit scheme has come out to fill up the needs in very jam-packed areas as well as for travel between metropolis and sub-urban regions of BMR.
The aim of providing van service is to bridge the disparity between public air-conditioned buses, personal transit (taxi) and private cars. Van transit has been generally used in BMR as an alternative for commuting between residential areas, business centers, shopping centers, and major transportation centers. Van transit is a public transportation style offered by private operators in BMR. The operators charge for the service that costs about two times the ticket of similar public air-conditioned bus services, so far van service has appeared to fill the gaps between the public air-conditioned bus, personal transit (taxi) and private cars.
The chosen vehicle of this scheme is a van with seating capacity of 12 seats, including driver. Van transit is managed on public streets and expressways in varied traffic. The ways of van transit are intended to propose the shortest travel time between starting point and final destination, similar to the ways of taxis and private vehicles. The directions are usually set but are occasionally changed to an interchange route when facing traffic jamming. Van transit normally makes only two stops, i.e., at the start and at the end of the route. As an outcome, users of van transit usually need as little time as users of personal transit (taxi) and private cars for the equal distance traveled.
Since 1995, the van transit scheme has been so well-liked that the figure of vans has increased from a few hundred in 1995 to about 8,300 vans in early 2004. The van service has been drawing a great number of consumers away from the bus service as well as customers from private cars. The van transit scheme now plays a significant role in endorsing ride sharing for traveling overcrowded areas of BMR. Laosirihongthong and Kunasol (2001) and Laosirihongthong and Pattaramuneekul (2004) reports demonstrate that the van scheme can provide a service that take actions more suitably to the commuters’ prospects than the customary bus system. The approval indicator of the van scheme is rated at 70 from a perfect score of 100, whereas the approval index of the mass rapid transit (MRT) system and the air-conditioned bus system are rated at 85 and 50 correspondingly.
This paper supports the van transit system. It has created an alternative transport system in BMR since it was introduced in 1995. The van transit system has become so effective that the number of vans increased from a few hundred to about 8,300 by 2004. It has also been seen as useful for a large number of private car operators and bus users who are considering private vehicles instead of van service. The van transit service is perceived to reduce traffic problems. It has also encouraged the public to share rides for mobility in the BMR area. Some 800,000 commuters used the van system each day in 2004.
Van transit is seen as practical among users and it was able to address traveler’s requirements in BMR. While it is more costly compared to public air-conditioned bus, it operates through revenues generated from customers and is profitable for service providers. It only goes to show that public transportation can be developed to address public needs as the van service a better option among public air-conditioned bus, personal transit (taxi) and private car users in the city centers and the new sub-urban areas of BMR.
It is important however that the government guarantees user safety and reliability of the system, provision of a terminal and official hubs, as well as announcing proper routes and apprehending road violators.
The van transit system significantly reduces the number of private vehicles as well as traffic congestion in urban areas. It is also possible to extend the van transit system to growing sub-urban areas similar to BMR. It provides a better option for travelers in very congested areas as well as those commuting between city centers and sub-urban areas.
Laosiri Hongthong, T. and Kunasol, B. “Quality of Van Transit Service: Reasons for Its Successful Operation in Bangkok, Thailand.” Paper presented at the 9th World Conference on Transport Research, Seoul, Korea. 2001.
Laosirihongthong, T. and Pattaramuneekul, S. “Characteristics and Quality of Canal Boat Service: A Potential Travel Alternative in Very Congested Area in Thailand.” Paper presented at the 10th World Conference on Transport Research, Istanbul, Turkey. 2004.
Kanchit Pianuan, Mingsarn Santikarn Kaosa-ard and Piyanuch Pienchob. “Bangkok Traffic Congestion: Is There a Solution?” Published in TDRI Quarterly Review Vol. 9 No. 2 June (1994), pp. 20-23.