Reduced traffic 'smart city' plan takes off

Reduced traffic 'smart city' plan takes off

Inspired by Barcelona's car-free zones, Thai municipalities are signing up to a "smart city" charter to pilot target areas in their communities for economic and cultural revival.

Barcelona's super blocks are neighbourhoods made up of nine blocks linked into an area restricting vehicles, thereby reducing noise and pollution from traffic.

Thapana Bunyapravitra, director and secretary of the National Charter of Thailand, funded by Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI), said this blueprint has provided an inspiration for what he calls "smart blocks" or experimental zones of 0.25 square kilometres in communities.

"We are setting up physical infrastructure in small areas to win public approval and make way for digital technology," he said yesterday at the signing ceremony.

Thirteen municipalities and six universities are now joining the smart city charter under the 20-year national strategy. Six municipalities are getting under way: Chiang Mai, Nakhon Sawan, Udon City, Khon Kaen, Rayong City, and Patong City.

Mr Thapana said these experimental zones will see all-in-one "smart poles" and complete streets placing priority on pedestrians, followed by cyclists, public transport users, and private car users.

"Personal vehicles are not banned, but ranks the fourth in order of importance. We will plant trees along footpaths and place all electric wires underground," he said.

Silinapa Sirisan, researcher at the National Charter of Thailand, said effort will be poured into developing economic hubs and run-down areas into smart blocks; for example, the improvement of Nakhon Sawan's Sri Krailat intersection, formerly a port city.

"We should give priority to physical infrastructure first because people are not yet ready for digital technology. That is why municipalities must play an integral role in urban development," she said.

Among these is the Khon Kaen smart city model. Suradech Taweesaengsakulthai, chief executive officer of Cho Thavee, said Khon Kaen's Srichan Road, a smart block, is now undergoing a physical revamp, including the setting up of smart poles.

"We are trying to revive our city," he said.

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