ORIGIN OF THE SMART CITY
>> Tired of waiting for central government, a community of business people in Khon Kaen struggled to find their own solution. And they came up with the “Khon Kaen Model”. The model is based on Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), which uses mass transit as the backbone for real estate and city development. If successfully implemented, Khon Kaen will be the first city in Thailand, apart from Bangkok, to have its own rail system.
The backbone of the Khon Kaen urban development plan is the construction of a 26-kilometre light rail transit line to solve traffic congestion and increase the value of real estate along the line. The plan is to generate sufficient income and wealth to cover the cost of constructing and maintaining the rail system. However, the goals of the Khon Kaen people are not only to solve traffic problems and develop real estate, but also to make their city more liveable and their economy more prosperous.
The Khon Kaen business community also has an ambition to master rail technologies so that they can develop more transit lines in the future and even sell such transit projects to other cities. Thus, they chose to develop their system using trams, which is an open system, rather than those used in all Bangkok mass-transit systems. Such closed-systems necessitate relying on foreign technologies indefinitely.
Fully aware that Khon Kaen is not a tourist city, the local businessmen made an effort to position the city as a regional hub for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice), with a proposal to construct an international convention centre. They also plan to establish an inland container depot (ICD) to cut storage and transportation costs for the goods of small- and medium-sized enterprises. All of this will be executed and funded by the private sector.
The Khon Kaen Model sets an example of participatory development in which many sectors take part in the process. It all began when 20 local tycoons, who have known one another well since their school days, each invested 10 million baht to establish the Khon Kaen Think Tank (KKTT) Group in January 2015. The company was set up to be a vehicle to collaborate with Khon Kaen University to develop strategies for urban development. With assistance from the KKTT, five municipalities along the tram line have also founded their own company, the Khon Kaen Transit System Co (KKTS), to implement the model. Excerpt from the commentary by Somkiat Tangkitvanich, PhD, president of Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). Published December 2017, in Bangkok Post.