Existing infrastructure continued to struggle to cope with increasing urbanisation, coupled with increasing private vehicle ownership. It remained a massive challenge for current public transportation networks to meet the ever-changing commuting needs of all travellers in the city.
While the emergence of on-demand ride-hailing has played a part in getting people from point-to-point more seamlessly and conveniently, people, particularly those living in underserved areas, still prefer to rely on private vehicle ownership to travel to their urban destinations. As a result, Bangkok is now the most congested city in Asia ranked by INRIX Global Traffic Scoreboard.1
Traffic congestion impacts Bangkok’s economic performance significantly. At the same time, it also adds undue stress to the environment, health and well-being of people in the city. Kasikorn Research Center2 studies show that people in Bangkok take an extra 35 minutes travelling on the road, spending time in traffic jams when they could be using their time more productively. Calculating time wasted on roads as an opportunity cost, it would cost around 11 billion baht per year or 60 million baht per day. Additionally, it increases the cost of fuel consumption by up to 6 billion baht per year.
With a lofty ambition to find effective solutions to relieve traffic woes in Bangkok, the “Rama 4 Model” project is born from a collaboration between the public, private and academic sectors, including the Ministry of Transport, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Metropolitan Police Bureau, Grab Thailand, Toyota Mobility Foundation and Chulalongkorn University. The project aims to use advanced data-driven solutions sourced from all parties involved to better analyze and predict traffic patterns along Rama 4 road, understand the root causes of the traffic congestion problem, and ultimately propose recommendations that could ease the existing traffic congestion issue.
Assoc. Prof. Sorawit Narupiti, Department of Civil Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, and “Rama 4 Model” project manager, commented “This project is part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by key parties in October 2018 with the aim of solving traffic issues in Bangkok and its surrounding precincts. Under this project, we will combine expertise and knowledge from the government, private and academic sectors to find a workable solution to traffic and public transportation challenges along Rama 4 road. This will include studying and utilising big data contributed by all parties, and applying innovative technology and knowledge to get to the root of the problem. The first phase of cooperation will start on Rama 4 road and we plan to extend to Sukhumvit Road, Charoenkrung Road, and the areas around Victory Monument, eventually.”
Rama 4 road is one of the most congested roads in Bangkok due to its importance as a critical transportation node connecting different communities, and its proximity to major thoroughfares, including Silom and Sathorn Roads in the central business district. The road also connects a growing residential population, and community malls like Samyan Mitrtown, One Bangkok, as well as academic institutions. The Rama 4 project will cover 12 kilometers of Rama 4 Road, from Hua Lamphong railway station to Phra Khanong district. The study will take approximately 18 months to complete, starting from November 2019 to April 2021, with an investment of 50 million baht by Toyota Mobility Foundation.
The Rama 4 model will bring together huge troves of data from a variety of databases from both public and private sectors to deliver the most comprehensive insights into Bangkok’s traffic problems. These include anonymised GPS ride data from Grab and the Ministry of Transport; CCTV footage from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and road accident data from Metropolitan Police Bureau, which will be jointly analysed to provide the entire traffic situation along Rama 4 road.
Tarin Thaniyavarn, Country Head of Grab Thailand, added that “This project truly exhibits the strength of public-private-academic partnerships in solving big, meaningful challenges to elevate the quality of lives of all Thais. As we have been providing on-demand ride-hailing services in Thailand for more than six years, Grab is excited to proactively contribute our technology know-how and data science capabilities in this meaningful project that can contribute to a less-congested and less-polluted Bangkok. We have amassed a huge trove of anonymised GPS ride data that can be analysed to provide a more accurate picture of the traffic situation along Rama 4 road, and our data scientists and tech engineers are all ready to share our insights with Chulalongkorn University and other parties involved in this project.”
Indeed, this is a very significant problem to solve for all in Thailand, as it not only impacts on the country’s economic competitiveness but also social welfare and environment. Everyone is anticipating for the eureka moment to crack this puzzle that has been affecting everyone’s lives in Thailand for the longest time. All eyes are on the Rama 4 model and putting hopes on technology as the solution to bring about good for the society!