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AseanAffairs Magazine September - October 2010

Thai Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva

Four months on in the reconciliation process Asean Affairs examines the progress and shortcomings of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s plan to bridge

COVER STORY 

Testimonials – What our Readers are saying about us
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Ralf Hundertmark



I am lucky. I have had the pleasure of living in Thailand for many years now. Bangkok is a truly great place, like so many in South East Asia. People are wonderful, food is brilliant and the number of leisure activities to choose from is unbelievable. Probably the only thing I could pick on the negative side of living here is the traffic.

Traffic in many of the South East Asian capitals like Manila, Jakarta and Bangkok is usually pretty bad. Let’s not say the traffic sucks. Let’s just say that it isn’t exactly pleasant to be a participant in – especially when it rains.

I have been wondering for some time how we could use modern IT systems and concepts to ease traffic congestion, and a recent trip to Singapore triggered this article. Singapore is actually quite advanced in managing downtown traffic. The ERP, or Electronic Road Pricing system in Singapore, is surely not the most beloved technological achievement of the Singaporeans, but one has to acknowledge that it keeps downtown traffic pretty much under control.
The city- state has installed some 80 ERP gates or gantries around the central business area and the expressways that communicate with a device built into the car, and act basically as a debit card. Whenever the car passes a gate, a certain amount depending on the time of the day and location is deducted from the available balance.

Traffic jams are common in Asean cities but high-tech solutions maybe near.

A little display informs the driver about the available cash whenever a gate is passed and the particular amount is subtracted. In addition, there are cameras installed in every gate, which take pictures of the license plate of the passing car for dispute resolution purposes. If a car passes that does not have such a device or if the money remaining on the card is not enough, the happy driver will get a written invoice sent to his home and naturally a little fine is applied as well. Foreign cars can buy a flat fee one-day pass and pay the outstanding amount at the border when they leave the country.

In fact, I was told that this system not only pays for itself, but also allows the government to subsidize the subway and public bus systems to stimulate drivers to park their car at park-and-ride facilities and use public transport.

All this made me think that now that Bangkok has a good public transport system, comprising buses, the sky train and the subway system, the next step would be to introduce a similar system here in Bangkok as well. The system could ease the traffic on the most congested roads like Sukhumvit and Silom and others alongside the sky train and the subway. I personally believe that such a system once introduced would actually be appreciated by most people.
Extra funds coming from the system could be used to introduce a unified ticketing system for Bangkok’s public transport system and ultimately to lower the price for monthly tickets.

This would really be great, but is far from all that could be achieved with modern traffic management systems. Another good and cost effective sample is the “green wave” signaling system, which synchronizes multiple traffic lights on a main road and ensures all green traffic lights for vehicles travelling at the advised speed limit.
Traffic flow is controlled either dynamically or fixed-time based. Fixedtime based means that the traffic lights are synchronized by static timers, which usually turn the lights to green a couple of minutes apart, depending on the local fixed speed limit and distance between the traffic lights.


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