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Phuket Opinion: Speak up for public transport

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Jaturong Kaewkasi, a 41-year-old native of Pattani, has been the Chief Transport Technician of the Phuket Land Transport Office for one year. He has a master’s degree in Social Development from Yala Rajabhat University and before coming to Phuket worked as a transport technician in Bangkok. Here, he talks about how to convince people to use buses in order to reduce traffic problems in Phuket.

PHUKET: Traffic jams are a problem for everyone in Phuket nowadays. One of the causes is the First Car project and companies offering very low down payments – 900 baht – for motorbikes. More people can afford to have a vehicle now, so there are more private vehicles on the road, and more traffic jams.

If 30 per cent of vehicle owners used public transportation instead, we wouldn’t have a problem with traffic jams.

I realize that it’s our job to make public transportation attractive so people will use it.

Right now, I think we do a good job in terms of seats, safety and information.

We provide enough public transport for everyone who wants to use it. In high season and holiday times we boost the number of buses, so people can be confident we will get them to their destinations on time.

During the Songkran period, we test every driver at the Phuket Bus Terminal for drugs and alcohol before every trip, but even in non-holiday periods we conduct random tests on our drivers.

And we do our best to make information easily accessible for travelers.

We don’t have information online, but travellers can call us to check bus schedules (076-373193) and check seat availability (076-211480, 076-373259).

What we need to improve in order to get more people to use buses in Phuket is coverage. Right now we don’t have enough routes.

We want to make a more complete network of routes, and we want to use the Downtown Market [map here] as a hub, because people are already used to taking buses from the market.

If the old airport bus dropped people at the Downtown Market, they could easily connect to the pink buses or beach buses. To make this convenient, we would create a schedule so people can plan their journey and not waste time. I would like to see this set up within the year.

We hope within five years to improve mass transportation to cover all of Phuket. If we can get support from private investors, the project can go even faster, but I’m not optimistic about this. The pink bus, for example, is not making money.

The public can also do their part to help us improve transportation.

Consider the project to start the new airport bus service. We have faced protests from a group of people who think they will lose benefits.

If people really want to improve the system of transportation, when we have a public hearing they should share their ideas or vote to support us.

I think most people want to improve the transport system, but they are too lazy to come and express their opinions. If they do nothing, they will get nothing.

We at the Public Land Transport Office will do our best to make public transportation comfortable, economical and punctual, with routes covering the whole island.

After that it will be up to the people of Phuket to change their own behavior, leave their private vehicles at home and take public transport.

— Saran Mitrarat

 

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