(1999-2009) BTS Skytrain and Bangkok City Fabric: Towards the Polycentric City Plan?
The Bangkok Comprehensive Plan (1st Revised Edition) was planned and completed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) in 1999 to be used as the development direction for he Bangkok Metropolis (Department of City Planning, 2016). One of the visions of the plan included “To improve the city’s accessibility by improving an efficient mass transit system” that the BTS Skytrain as the first elevated mass transit system for the city just started its operation in 1999 and the first underground subway system, the Metropolitan Rapid Transit, was under construction to be opened in 2004 (MRTA, 2016). The BMA government tried to incorporate and make use of these mass transit systems to facilitate the bigger plan for Bangkok.
The first mission in the 1999 Bangkok Comprehensive Plan is to develop a polycentric city with the existing center of business developments located in the heart of the city and community centers scattered around the outskirt areas (Department of City Planning, 2016). The third mission of the plan is to set up land use schemes ready for the public transportation networks, public utilities and infrastructure in and nearby public transportation stations. It was clear that the BMA government was trying to incorporate a transit-oriented development strategy in its bigger development plan of Bangkok.
However it was argued that the BTS Skytrain did not facilitate the city’s plan to develop into a polycentric city. One major reason is the scale of the BTS Skytrain project and this could also be explained by the background of the set of the BTS Skytrain. As the first mass transit system, the BTS Skytrain was set to help alleviate the growlingly serious traffic congestion and to connect and serve the areas in the city center. However it was also the limit of the BTS Skytrain that is to serve the inner city of Bangkok. According to Mr Vasin Thammanuban, a lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture of Assumption University, he believes that the BTS Skytrain was built to serve the inner city commercial district as well for the business districts instead of reaching out to the majority of the people of Bangkok (Bengtsson, 2006). The two lines, the Sukhumvit line and the Silom line, were built to enhance the opportunities in the commerce in the CBD district. The BTS Skytrain further promote the development in the inner city to strengthen the core of the city.
Another constraint to this plan is that the BTS Skytrain is a privately invested infrastructure. Since the BTS Skytrian is a privately own company by the Bangkok Transit System Corporation (BTSC, 2016) led by Keeree Kanjanapas (黃創山) , the flexibility of an extension to the original coverage of the routes to reach out to outer parts of Bangkok as to fulfill the development plan of the city is not high. The BTS Skytrain reached a peak ridership in 2006 of about 550 000 weekday passengers (Cobb, 2016). Despite in such high demand, it was not until 10 years after its opening to have an extension complete in 2009.
Some may argue that it is inevitable that BTS Skytrain has the potential in a longer term to reach out to different parts of Bangkok hence to help development the city into a polycentric one. It is believed that in order to achieve the potential that the BTS Skytrain could do to the Bangkok city development, a comprehensive plan of an integrated mass transit system is necessary that the BTS Skytrain should be further integrated to the bigger mass transit system as a whole.
“The Bangkok Comprehensive Plan (1st Revised Edition) in 1999”, Department of City Planning, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, accessed December 08 2016, http://cpd.bangkok.go.th/eng-map2.html
“Background”, Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA), accessed December 08 2016, http://www.mrta.co.th/en/aboutMRTA/history.php
“Company’s Profile” Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited (BTSC), accessed December 8, 2016, http://www.bts.co.th/corporate/en/01-about-history.aspx
Magnus Bengtsson. “The Bangkok Skytrain – The transportation solution for Bangkok people?” (UMEÅ UNIVERSITY, 2006)
Dr. J. Michael Cobb, “Skytrain Expands and Records First Profits”, Planning – Design – Financing – Development The “Mega Projects” Project Development Review, TransGate/IDC Int’l Development Consultants, accessed December 6 2016, http://www.idcworld.com/bangkok/