It is customary and almost obligatory for people in Bangkok to complain about traffic gridlock, but along with the understandable grousing, we should not forget how much more liveable the city has become as a direct result of mass transit projects. Anyone who lived here on a budget in the 1990s can probably recall with dread the prospect of a cross-town bus ride, especially if it had to be done twice daily in the commute to and from work. The skytrain and subway have made life much easier for the city's residents and visitors alike, and realistically it's doubtful that Bangkok and the country as a whole would be drawing large numbers of tourists if it it were still such a slog to get around the capital. And while the fares are a bit high for the average salaried worker in the city, many still choose the trains because it allows them more free time to be with family or to do something more productive with their time than inching along impossibly crowded roads. Some of the more well-off with private cars are also choosing mass transit, although not nearly enough.
The existing rail projects were completed at a high cost in terms of both money and inconvenience during construction, but few would deny that it has been worth it. Mass transit still has a long way to go here, but compared with mega-cities such as Jakarta, where mass transit is still in its infancy, Bangkokians have good reason to be thankful.
It therefore makes good sense to carry on with planned rail projects as quickly as possible, even though they will also be expensive and cause inconvenience. And when feasible, more projects should be put in the works not only in Bangkok but other large population centres. It is sometimes argued that such projects should be delayed or even scrapped because they may not be profitable for some time, if ever. But if there is ever justification for government ''subsidies'' _ which in the best-case scenario merely means putting tax baht where needed _ this is surely one.
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