When it opened 20 years ago yesterday, the BTS Skytrain saw few riders and was predicted to fail. Today, it’s stretched beyond capacity and predicted to fail.
Yet it keeps sailing on, adding new stations in all directions two decades after the first 23 came into service on Dec. 5, 1999.
Just Wednesday, a day before its 20th anniversary, the system moved four stations closer to achieving an ambitious master plan to stretch a web of commuter rail across the chaotic and traffic-strangled cosmopolitan area.
As a birthday gift, a Thai transportation geek living in California created one of the most beautiful maps we’ve seen of the greater metro area’s current transportation system.
See the Silom Line’s reach extended across the mighty Chao Phraya River to Bang Wa, and the 19 new stations added to both ends of the Sukhumvit Line in the map created by Oran Viriyincy – plus all the other rail that’s come online since, from the Airport Rail Link to the MRT system’s own extensions.
Oran, who counts among his Twitter followers one @BarackObama, shared his new map in a Thursday tweet.
“It was my first taste of fast and reliable transport in a chronically congested city,” Oran tweeted.
Indeed it was. Though the complaints are many today over the overcrowded and fault-prone rail system, it was a marvel of German efficiency when the Siemens-engineered system opened in 1999.
The map allows users to toggle back and forth between how things looked in 1999 vs. 2019.
Interesting things to note include the two “ghost stations,” one on each line, for which the holding company that operates the city-owned system has been collecting fares and occasionally renewing vows to build for two decades.
Not all has been good. In recent years, the system has been given to breakdowns blamed on a Chinese-made signaling system, and a coarse disregard by its owner, City Hall, in making it fully accessible to people with disabilities, nearly five years after a landmark court decision.
Oran; who says he counts Bangkok and Seattle home but lives in Santa Barbara, Calif.; said he was “barely a teenager” at the time the BTS opened.
As of Monday, 3,327,040,195 trips had been taken on the BTS since day one. Last month it averaged 756,000 weekday trips. October’s total of 20.8 million trips is nearly five times what it was in the first few year of operation.
That growth has been steady but for a time nine years ago when it fell to an eight-year low in May 2010 during that year’s political unrest.
Today’s the 20th anniversary of the BTS Skytrain, Bangkok’s first elevated mass rapid transit system. I map the system as it was in 1999. It was my first taste of fast and reliable transport in a chronically congested city. https://t.co/rHmftHdRtO pic.twitter.com/RFxoYpMC5M
— Oran (@oranv) December 5, 2019