BRT for Free in Bangkok
Bangkok traffic is colorful but nasty. Planners hope the BRT - which will opened its first route on May 30 - will ease congestion in the city. Image via UweBKK (α 550 on ).

Bangkok traffic is colorful but nasty. Planners hope the BRT - which opened its first route on May 30 - will ease congestion in the city. Image via UweBKK (α 550 on ).

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:

So far there are 25 BRTBangkok buses, with a capacity for 80 passengers each. Photo via Richard Barrow, MyThailandBlog.com.

So far there are 25 BRTBangkok buses, with a capacity for 80 passengers each. Photo via Richard Barrow, MyThailandBlog.com.

Looks like a tight squeeze for this BRT bus trying to make a U-turn at terminal station BRT-Sathorn. Photo via Richard Barrow, MyThailandBlog.com.

Looks like a tight squeeze for this BRT bus trying to make a U-turn at terminal station BRT-Sathorn. Photo via Richard Barrow, MyThailandBlog.com.

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!

Stations are not wheelchair-accessible. At this ticket station, an escalator leads down to the waiting room/platform. Photo via Richard Barrow, MyThailandBlog.com

Stations are not wheelchair-accessible. At this ticket station, an escalator leads down to the waiting room/platform. Photo via Richard Barrow, MyThailandBlog.com.

Monitors in the ticket area and waiting area show the next bus's expected arrival time in English and Thai. Photo via Richard Barrow, MyThailandBlog.com

Monitors in the ticket area and waiting area show the next bus's expected arrival time in English and Thai. Photo via Richard Barrow, MyThailandBlog.com.

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:

Bangkok needs to block other traffic from BRT lanes to ensure that BRT succeeds in boosting public transit ridership and easing congestion. Photo via "Goddess" on Skyscrapercity.com.

Bangkok needs to block other traffic from BRT lanes to ensure that BRT succeeds in boosting public transit ridership and easing congestion. Here, BangkokBRT shown stuck in traffic. Photo via "Goddess" on Skyscrapercity.com.

For Richard Barrow’s full report on the first day of BRT operations, look here.

ChinaBRT has a convenient checklist analyzing the new system:

Segregated busways or bus-only roadways Though not in section north of Rama III Bridge
Distinctive BRT buses
Network of routes and corridors
Enhanced station environment (more than just a bus shelter)
High peak period operational speed (>20km/hr)
Overtaking lanes at more than half of all stations
Actual peak ridership over 10,000 passengers per hour per direction
Actual peak ridership over 20,000 passengers per hour per direction
Passenger volume greater than a mixed traffic lane (~3000 pphpd)
Pre-board fare collection and fare verification
At-level boarding and alighting high floor buses and stations
Sliding doors in BRT stations
Includes BRT-only tunnels or bridges
Buses operating both inside and outside the busway corridor
Competitively bid operating contracts and concessions
More than one BRT bus operator
No operational subsidy from government subsidy needed
BRT buses paid for by operators rather than government budget
Independently operated and managed fare collection system
Low-emission vehicle technology (Euro III or higher)
Station size based on passenger demand
Full weather protection on all station platforms
Signal priority or grade separation at intersections
Distinctive marketing identity for system Bangkok BRT
High capacity BRT buses
Bicycle parking at BRT stations
Segregated bike lanes along main corridor(s)
Wheelchair accessible stations
Stations away from intersections
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  • http://twitter.com/viaarchitecture viaarchitecture

    First BRT (bus rapid transit) opens in Bangkok http://bit.ly/bzYtxr

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/shohei_07 shohei_07

    今月オープンしたバンコクのBRTが8月末まで利用無料に。 http://ow.ly/25QQ2 (←動画あり)今回の路線は延長15キロ・12駅(地図http://ow.ly/25QTQ)。2012年までにあと4路線開通予定。ネックは100%バス専用レーンではないこと。

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Pingback: BRT for Free in Bangkok | TheCityFix.com - BASBAG

  • Pingback: BRT for Free in Bangkok | thecityfix.com - BASBAG

  • http://www.condobangkok.org Sam C.

    The more transportation in Bangkok the better. Good to finally see an eco-friendly bus. The pollution from buses here is so terrible I just wish they would get moving and make all buses CNG.

    I mean I like Oxygen, don’t you?

  • http://twitter.com/TheCityFix TheCityFix

    Take a free ride on Bangkok’s new #BRT while the kinks are ironed out. http://bit.ly/bkkbrt

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/fieldmousetazz fieldmousetazz

    BRT for Free in Bangkok: thecityfix.com (blog)
    Bangkok’s BRT opened at the beginning of June, and is running on a … http://bit.ly/c19RkZ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/fieldmousetaz15 fieldmousetaz15

    BRT for Free in Bangkok: thecityfix.com (blog)
    Bangkok’s BRT opened at the beginning of June, and is running on a … http://bit.ly/c19RkZ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/rachelrodgers2 rachelrodgers2

    BRT for Free in Bangkok: thecityfix.com (blog)
    Bangkok’s BRT opened at the beginning of June, and is running on a … http://bit.ly/c19RkZ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/RichardBarrow RichardBarrow

    Bangkok traffic is colorful but nasty. Planners hope the BRT will ease congestion in the city. http://j.mp/8WWY6p

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter