Compact Cities: Sustainable Urban Forms for Developing Countries

By Mike Jenks; Rod Burgess | Go to book overview

Malcolm Moor and Clarke Rees

Bangkok Mass Transit Development Zones

Introduction

Bangkok has grown at a phenomenal rate, but as a result of weak planning controls the city has no clearly definable centre, with high-rise development arising apparently at random throughout the urban area. Development has followed the arterial roads and the suburbs have spread across flood-prone agricultural land, previously intensively cultivated for rice paddies and shrimp farms. These dispersed car-based developments have led to severe traffic congestion and air pollution threatening the quality of life of its inhabitants, and acting as a disincentive to foreign investment and tourism.

The Thai government, and the Bangkok Municipal Authority (BMA), recognising that roads alone could not keep up with traffic growth, have belatedly introduced new rail mass transit systems into the city, using a privately financed system of procurement. Two elevated metro rail concessions were let and under construction before the Bangkok Public Transport Master Plan was prepared in 1995 (Halcrow/Sofretu, 1995). The plan (Fig. 1) proposed a network of 200km of transit lines and recommended that all lines in the central area should be underground. After much public debate into the environmental consequences of huge elevated structures crossing the city, the two elevated lines, already approved, although still at the design stage, were eventually excluded from this restriction, but the third line was redesigned to be totally underground.

The alignments of the transit lines follow public road and railway rights of way in order to minimise the expense and complications of private land acquisition. As a result, stations predominantly serve existing concentrations of population, rather than opening up new areas for development. The network planning was initially transportation and engineering-led, with the land-use planning implications addressed once station locations had been identified.

The government’s Land Transport Agency commissioned a study in 1994 to demonstrate how the benefits of the investment in mass transit could be maximised by encouraging planned developments centred on the new metro stations (Rees and Moor, 1996-97). By creating compact transit zones, the walk-in catchment

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