By Vipaporn Jitsomboon
The worst is yet to come for Bangkokians grumbling about traffic conditions.
According to Chula Sukmanop, director-general of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, 2014 will be the worst due to the sharp increase in the number of vehicles and construction of several mega-projects. Though 80 per cent of vehicles bought under the first-car buyer scheme – estimated to reach 800,000 units – are registered in the provinces, it remains unknown how many will be brought to the capital.
“Traffic conditions will worsen, with a sharp increase in the number of vehicles against unchanged road space. Construction work plus the poor discipline of some drivers will worsen it. It’ll be difficult for vehicles to move fast. At best, we can only try to maintain the current average speed,” he said.
The worst will be in 2014 when the Green Line (Mor Chit-Saphan Mai-Khoo Khot) construction will start on Phaholyothin, one of the main city routes, he added.
Foreseeing the situation, the office is now gathering construction plans of all mega-projects planned for now until 2017 to draw up a new traffic plan.
A campaign will be launched to reduce personal vehicles on the streets. More brand-new air-conditioned public buses will be in service, with special bus lanes. More park and ride locations will be provided with buses to transport commuters to electric trains.
Despite a spike in oil prices, the number of all types of vehicles in Greater Bangkok has been on the rise. In the first 10 months of 2012, 1,536 vehicles were registered daily in Bangkok and the peripheral provinces, up 39.6 per cent from 1,100 in the same period last year. Motorcycle registration in Greater Bangkok also increased by 18.8 per cent year on year to 1,272 per day.
As of October 31, the outstanding number of registered vehicles in Greater Bangkok stood at 7,384,934, an increase of 535,721 or 7.8 per cent from the end of last year.
Major construction projects include the Purple Line (Bang Sue-Bang Yai), the Red Line (Bang Sue-Taling Chan), Blue Line (Bang Sue-Tha Phra and Hualampong-Bang Khae), and tunnels at Charansanitvong-Borom Rajajonani intersection, at Charansanitvong-Phrannok intersection and at Taksin-Mahaisawan intersection.
The office conducted a survey during July-September, normally the most congested period of the year when all educational institutions are open. It found traffic conditions on average this year were not much different from last year. The average speed for rush-hour inbound traffic was 16.5 km per hour, against 16.3 km/h last year. The average outbound traffic during rush hours was 23.5 km/h, against 23.9 km/h. Drivers living in the North and West witnessed faster speeds as some commuters diverted to other routes to avoid the Purple Line and Blue Line construction sites. Better traffic management also counted.
“When all the construction projects are completed, traffic problems will not simply go away. The government needs new measures to promote public transportation, to reduce congestion on streets and expressways,” Chula concluded.