Playing the numbers game in recent weeks have been two of the agencies paid to solve Bangkok's worsening traffic problem. It all started when the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) posed the question of what would happen if all seven million cars registered in Bangkok tried to occupy the capital's road space, sufficient for only 1.6 million vehicles, at the same time. This puzzle of what to do with an exploding car population that is now 4.4 times greater than the space available for it gave rise to some good cartoons but no solutions. Nor was there much enthusiasm for the BMA's plea that citizens use their cars less and public transport more.
Now it is the turn of a government transport agency to warn that the 1,200 cars a day being registered in Bangkok have reached an unsustainable level. Proof lies in the fact that traffic flows are slowing down and bottlenecks are worsening. But unlike the BMA, the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning has some suggestions for improvements.
Short-term recommendations are to eliminate many of the worsening bottlenecks on major roads by relocating some U-turns and bus stops. But the agency's main proposal is to vary the hours of government offices, schools and businesses to lessen peak traffic loads. In other words, businesses would open and close later to avoid clashing with the hours at which students and government workers are on the roads. At present primary school students start first and department stores open last with the main crush coming in between. Some companies have avoided this by using flexitime, satellite offices in the suburbs and home telecommuting.