Modern Transit Changes the Culture of a City
Within about a year, two major lines of the MRT rail transit system in Bangkok that are currently under construction will open their doors and start carrying passengers. These two lines pass through some of the most populated residential areas of the northern part of the city.
The lines will hopefully ease the horribly congested traffic during rush hour. Until now, residents of these areas relied on various means to get into and out of the central business area of the city. One of these transportation methods is unique to Bangkok, the ‘Venice of the East’.
A canal called Klong San Saep runs along Ramkhamhaeng Avenue into Central Bangkok. This canal or ‘klong’ serves as the watery road for the water taxis that travel back and forth along it, ferrying commuters to their jobs in the city and back home again in the evening. The water taxis are long, thin boats of about 20 metres. They pull up to one of the many piers along the canal, hordes of people crowd on and off, and they’re off again in the blink of an eye.
The water taxis will most likely see a large drop in the number of customers once the new MRT lines begin operations. They can get crowded and hot, and passengers near the doors and windows routinely get drenched when it’s raining. But I hope they still have enough customers to make the concession worth continuing.
It’s one of the facets that identifies Bangkok as Bangkok. When a visitor from out of town comes to the city for the first time, I take them into town aboard one of the water taxis. It’s like riding the cable cars in San Francisco or drinking a coffee along the Seine in Paris. And I hope plenty of people will still ride the water taxis after the MRT opens up.