(1999-2009) BTS Skytrain : designed for who?

The establishment of Skytrain has an immense impact on how people travel around the city and their lifestyle, and is especially noticeable for Pichaya Fitts, a business reported living in bangkok.

At 2:30 p.m. on a weekday, the Skytrain in Bangkok, Thailand, was still pretty crowded. I squeezed myself into a small space near the doors, waiting to exit at the next stop. Suddenly, a cheery sound of music wafted through the air before a woman, standing not far from me, shouted a “Hello” into her tiny cellular phone.

“I’m on the train, two stops away from you,” she told the caller. “Will get there in a heartbeat.”

Traveling around with the sense of speed of a heartbeat was a luxury no Bangkokian could afford until 1999. Even today, the average vehicle speed in this city during the morning rush is roughly 18 kilometers an hour. When Pichaya fitts was working as a business reporter in the early 1990s, he had to spare around 1 or 2 hours for travel each time he had an appointment elsewhere in the city. Sitting idly in their vehicle was a normal part of the everyday life of many Bangkok citizen.There is a drastic change since the elevated skytrain has arrived. It now takes Fitts just a few minutes to reach his office from his apartment less than two kilometers away. Before the time of the Skytrain, the same journey could take from15 to 45 minutes. It would be much more easier to estimate the time needed to travel.


Notorious traffic congestion below the BTS skytrain
Notorious traffic congestion below the BTS skytrain


A new and efficient way of travel



While the skytrain seems all promising to the commuters who use it, it is only part of the full picture. According to an interview with Mr Vasin Thammanuban,  a lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture on Assumption University in Bangkok, believe that the Skytrain was not intended to built for the majority of the people. He would rather say that the purpose of the Skytrain System is to “serve for the inner city commercial districts as well for the business districts.”First, is the location of the lines.The two major lines of BTS are Sukhumvit route and the Silom route.These are traditional commercial centre of the city, with well established public facilities and office towers. Mr Vasin believed that the two routes do not serve the major residential areas. Although there is residential area along Sukhumvit route, they are mainly for high-income residents living in high rise condom towers.The ticket for a journey with the Skytrain is expensive as well. While the Skytrain ticket starts from 10 baht up to 45 baht for a single journey. If two trips are taken a day ( 80 baht) , the total monthly expenditure would be around 2480 baht, which is more than ⅓ of the total income of low income residents in a month ( 6000 baht).

With the price of the tickets and the nature of the development excluding the low income group of the population, it is expected to have various implication on the modes of travel and social impact to the city.




Bengtsson, Magnus. The Bangkok Skytrain – The Transportation Solution for Bangkok People? Master’s thesis, UMEÅ UNIVERSITY Department of Social and Economic Geography Social and Economic Geography, 2006.

Fitts, Pichaya. “Bangkok’s Skytrain an Example of the Good Infrastructure and Services Thailand Needs.” The World Bank. April 05, 2009.


1 Comment on “(1999-2009) BTS Skytrain : designed for who?

  1. The narrative about target user group of BTS is interesting to me. I am doubtful about its efficiency if it only serves the business areas and a high-end residential area. In both Hong Kong and my home Shanghai, the problem of traffic congestion mainly happens when people go to office from home or vise versa. So the subway system is to link remote residential areas and central business areas. I am not so clear why BTS only aims at easing the traffic load within the business area because large number of people still need to drive into that area during the same time from all over the city.

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