Photo essay: How do people use public transport to get around Bangkok?

Public transport in Bangkok, Thailand

Land-based public transport

For commuters that are in a hurry and don’t mind spending a little extra cash, the Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS or Skytrain) is a popular option, with 750,000 daily passengers. Travel by BTS can cost from 16–59 Baht (0.47 USD-1.72 USD) per trip.

Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS or Skytrain) in Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS or Skytrain) in Bangkok, Thailand
With trains running every 4–6 minutes, it’s easy to understand why Bangkok’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system is so popular. For women, it’s also considered as one of the safest options for public transport.
With trains running every 4–6 minutes, it’s easy to understand why Bangkok’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system is so popular. For women, it’s also considered as one of the safest options for public transport.

Choosing public transport in Bangkok

With so many public transport options, how do people in Bangkok decide which one to choose?

Woman boards a public van
People waiting to board the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) bus
Commuters in Bangkok can gain an idea of a bus’s condition simply by looking at it.
Commuters okay with travelling without air conditioning can opt for a red bus in Bangkok
Interior of the old red bus in Bangkok
Interior of the old red bus
Fare payment in a songthaew
Fare payment in a songthaew

Considerations when using public transport

Safety can also influence a passenger’s transport choice — particularly for women. Public vans are considered to be the most risky for sexual harrassment or invasive photo-taking, while MRT, Skytrain, and BTS are considered the safest for women.

Woman travels in a Kapor

Traffic congestion in Bangkok

Pre-pandemic, Bangkok was frequently in TomTom’s list of most congested cities. Crawling traffic meant commuters spent hours on the move (or rather, barely on the move) each day, and there was an obvious negative impact on air quality. What causes this congestion? The answer is the combination of a high number of privately owned vehicles, and the lack of integration of traffic agencies — there are over 20 different traffic agencies for traffic management, planning, and infrastructure in the city.

Rush hour is at its worst on Fridays from 6–7pm in Bangkok.
Passengers alighting from a public van

How does a complete understanding of mobility benefit public transport users and organisations?

For our Rumbo users in Bangkok, it means an improved public transport experience. Before WhereIsMyTransport, there was no single-source of data in Bangkok, and no public transport app that featured reliable data for every different type of public transport. Because of this, when people planned their journeys, they relied mostly on local knowledge and experience of the city. If they were travelling to an area they didn’t know, they would ask a friend or a local there.

Further reading

Understanding the mobility ground truth in Bangkok

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WhereIsMyTransport

WhereIsMyTransport

Stories about data, mobility, and the Majority World.