Bangkok’s BRT opened at the beginning of June, and is running on a free-trial basis until August 31 to try to encourage bus-riding to ease the city’s grinding gridlock.
The new BRT in Thailand’s capital – a city of nearly 10 million people – has 12 stops covering about 15 kilometers, with an average distance of about 1 kilometer from station to station. The first trunk route runs from the chichi (and smoggy) Sathorn Road to Ratchaphruek Road. So it doesn’t get great marks (yet) for improving connectivity and accessibility for the city’s poorest neighborhoods; still, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) says four new routes will be added by 2012.
Bangkok-based blogger Richard Barrow took some great video on May 30, the first day of service, showing the difficulty the drivers were having in approaching the station platforms. As Barrow points out, though, it was still their first day:
Barrow also created a useful Google Map showing the BRT route and interesting spots along the way.
Initial weaknesses in the system are evident. For instance, the stations are not wheelchair accessible (global best practice calls for tactile turnstiles and wheelchair ramps, like in Ahmedabad), and some of the bus-only lanes – which are not 100 percent bus-only – include sharp turns that are difficult for the buses to maneuver:
Signage is fairly good, however: monitors in stations and waiting areas say the expected arrival time of the next bus in English and Thai (again, so far there’s no audio announcement for the visually-impaired). The BangkokBRT branding seems effective: the bright yellow and green buses, with their antenna-like green mirrors, call people’s attention – and they’re air-conditioned!
There are clearly major issues for the BMA to work out as it continues to develop the BRT system over the next couple of years. One of the most obvious is ensuring that the so-called BRT lanes are bus-only lanes for 100 percent of the route, so the buses don’t end up caught in gridlock:
For Richard Barrow’s full report on the first day of BRT operations, look here.
ChinaBRT has a convenient checklist analyzing the new system: