BANGKOK — To reduce Bangkok’s misery-inducing traffic, take some buses off the road?
A transport official Thursday slammed a top police officer for citing that unique logic recently to demand buses on Ramkhamhaeng Road be reduced to ease its nerve-shattering congestion.
Chamnan Yoosa-ard of the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority expressed dismay after a deputy metro police chief blamed “big buses” for traffic on the street, where major ongoing construction for the Orange Line has shut down two lanes.
“The BMTA buses do not cause problems for traffic,” Chamnan wrote online. “It hurts to hear that conclusion as a solution for the traffic problems.”
On Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Jirapat Bhumijit offered the suggestion among measures under consideration to solve high congestion problems, especially during rush hours. They included adding shuttles to popular destinations and reducing bus routes along the road.
“These buses are big and old. When they get stuck in traffic or break down, they need a lot of space,” he said. “Further study is needed to see which routes have too many buses but too few passengers. They will be cut to increase space, which will help ease traffic problems.”
Bangkok’s congestion problems are exacerbated throughout the city by construction projects unfolding at a seemingly languid pace. On Ramkhamhaeng Road, only four of six lanes are open due to construction there that’s expected to continue another five years at least.
In his long post, Chamnan said the suggestion contradicts the policies of “many civilized countries” to encourage people to use public transport. He faulted the government for pushing policy after policy promoting use of private cars until they “flood the streets.”
He also fumed that despite buses being used for many state functions, including flood evacuation, the government offers little support. His department can only pay small salaries to its employees and is now in hundreds billion of baht in debt, he said.
“Stepped-up law enforcement to solve the [problem] should be a better solution,” he wrote. “I believe ‘big buses are causing traffic problems’ is only a passing thought, not the conclusion of all the options out there.”
And the idea that the road is choked with empty buses just isn’t true, a higher-ranking transportation official chimed in to say.
Prayoon Choygeo, acting BMTA director, today said that up to 97,000 people commute daily on BMTA buses servicing Ramkhamhaeng.
“During the rush hours, all buses are packed,” he said. “If the amount of buses is reduced, what would the affected passengers do?”
He said the department wouldn’t reject the suggestion, which has yet to be formally proposed, but added that other solutions should be discussed to minimize the harm to public transportation commuters.
“This road has had severe congestion long before the rail construction,” Prayoon said. “The amount of cars should be reduced, especially personal vehicles that can be diverted to other streets, and people encouraged to use public transport more.”
“The people affected are the majority who don’t have other commuting choices except for buses. People who have their own cars have more options,” he added.