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Fare isn't fair

Costs to use Bangkok's buses have increased, but quality of service has moved in the other direction

(Photos by Patipat Janthong)

Bangkok's buses are known to offer a Fast And Furious kind of ride. Years ago, the No.8 was voted worst in the city in the Transport Ministry's Facebook survey, due to the horrible experience. Despite a sudden change in driver and conductor behaviour after the survey was released, many public buses are still notorious for their impolite and inefficient services, as well as poor facilities, among many other things.

So it comes as no surprise that recent news of increased fares has sparked public outcry. Starting on April 22, fares were raised by 1-7 baht, depending on the type of bus. As of now, fares for ordinary and air-conditioned buses have increased by 1-5 baht. A further increase will be applied on April 22 next year.

Certainly, the price hike affects regular commuters, especially low- and middle-class workers. To raise concern on behalf of the public, the Foundation for Consumers has voiced opposition to the Bangkok bus-fare hike, saying there is no guarantee that higher prices equate to better service. Also, the foundation said the higher prices will set a model for other modes of public transport, such as vans and shuttle boats, to follow suit.

Life spoke to nine bus commuters as to how the increased fares affect them and what kind of improved service they wish to see in return.


Malee Poomsirirat, 59

Employee at a private company

How often do you use the public bus?

Every day.

Does the increased fare affect you?

Not yet. I'm using a weekly card, which costs 200 baht, and I still have the cards. If BMTA [Bangkok Mass Transit Authority] raises the price of the cards, I'll be miserable.

Have you used other public transportation?

No. The BTS and MRT are expensive. And if I want to take the BTS or MRT, there will be a very long walk.

What would you like the BMTA to improve?

I wish there would be more buses. If I pay more and can get a seat, I think it's worth it. In the evening, I sometimes have to take a motorcycle taxi, because the bus is too crowded to board.


Wieng Wattana, 51

Employee at a private company

How often do you use the public bus?

All working days.

Does the increased fare affect you?

Not much. I usually pay 9 baht for a trip. Now, it increases to 10 baht.

Have you used other public transportation?

No. I take a bus to work and barely go to other places.

What would you like the BMTA to improve?

The driving is very scary. They should be more careful. Some drivers park their buses and wait for more passengers for too long. The BMTA should improve the conditions of buses. Fans on buses are usually out of order, making it extremely hot inside.


Pimlapas Paothong, 20

University student

How often do you use the public bus?

Six times a week.

Does the increased fare affect you?

Yes. I used to pay 13 baht, but now the fare is 17 baht. The route is very short and the buses are in poor condition. I'm not OK with it.

Have you used other public transportation?

I sometimes take the BTS, but it is too jam-packed in the morning and evening. It also breaks down too often.

What would you like the BMTA to improve?

They should improve the condition of the buses. If they are in good condition, I'll feel fine with the rising fares.


Boonyarat Chumkong, 24

Manager at a private company

How often do you use the public bus?

Six to seven days a week.

Does the increased fare affect you?

Yes. I take buses with my girlfriend, and now I have to pay around 17-18 baht per person for a trip. I pay much the same price for a taxi, which is more convenient.

Have you used other public transportation?

I use both MRT and BTS. I like them more because they are fast and convenient.

What would you like the BMTA to improve?

They should have more buses during peak hours.


Chai, 70

Retiree

How often do you use the public bus?

Once or twice a week.

Does the increased fare affect you?

No. I usually drive my own car.

Have you used other public transportation?

No.

What would you like the BMTA to improve?

The orange Euro II air-conditioned buses are fine, but the blue buses numbered 524 are very old. The roof leaks during rainy season and the air-conditioner doesn't work. The No.39, which is run by private operators, provides very bad service. Bus conductors didn't give me a ticket even after I pay my fare.


Suwipa Parkust, 48

Employee at a private company

How often do you use the public bus?

Five days a week.

Does the increased fare affect you?

Yes. I used to pay around 35-40 baht [per day]. Now, I have to pay at least 60 baht. The fare has increased, but the service is as bad as usual.

Have you used other public transportation?

I take the BTS and MRT too, but during rush hour, public transportation is packed. Buses provide more routes. I can avoid the crowds.

What would you like the BMTA to improve?

Buses are in poor condition and they don't arrive often. I have to wait for a long time. I wish there would be more buses. Some drivers and bus conductors are impolite. I often see drivers using their mobile phones while driving. They should have new buses and more polite staff.


Ploy Thamma, 29

Employee at a private company

How often do you use the public bus?

Five days a week. And connect to the BTS.

Does the increased fare affect you?

Not much. I used to pay 9 baht or 13 baht. Now, I pay 10 baht or 14 baht.

What would you like the BMTA to improve?

Buses are cheap when compared to other public transportation, but drivers don't have discipline and they drive dangerously. The BMTA should provide more facilities for disabled people and should add CCTV on buses. At bus stops, they should have English information for tourists. And they should let us pay by using BTS's Rabbit card or the MRT card.


Yanisa Senangkanikorn, 33

Employee at a private company

How often do you use the public bus?

Five days a week.

Does the increased fare affect you?

No. I used to pay 9 or 15 baht. Now, I pay 10 or 16 baht.

Have you used other public transportation?

No. I want to take the BTS or MRT too, but there is no service available to my office.

What would you like the BMTA to improve?

Actually, I like it when drivers go really fast because I can arrive at my destination on time. But buses have unpredictable schedules. I sometimes have to wait for a long time. And some drivers wait for passengers for too long. I understand they want to have lots of passengers, but they shouldn't park buses that long.


Jib Saranrat, 22

University student

How often do you use the public bus?

Three times a week.

Does the increased fare affect you?

Not much. I used to pay 17 baht. Now I pay 21 baht.

Have you used other public transportation?

MRT. It's convenient and fast.

What would you like the BMTA to improve?

The buses are very old. The BMTA should replace them with new ones. Bus conductors speak harshly to passengers. They should be more polite.