Embracing Technology for Reliable Transportation
If I asked you to close your eyes and imagine a Bangkok with fewer cars on the streets, it would be a difficult scenario to visualize for many people. Those of us who live or grew up in Bangkok understand that traffic jams are an unavoidable part of life in this city.
THE COST OF TRAFFIC
Last year, Bangkok commuters spent an average of 64 hours per year in traffic, according to the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard in 2016. According to the same report, Bangkok is ranked as the 12th most congested city in the world. Apart from time lost on the road, it is estimated that traffic costs the Thai economy around Baht 11 billion per year, according to a recent study by Kasikorn Research Center.
Apart from time and the opportunity cost of traffic, another side effect of congestion is pollution. Out of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions 22% come from cars – a majority of which spend 95% of their time in parking lots.
In many cities, parking lots take up to one fifth of the city’s space. In Bangkok, cars are parked in random places – sometimes taking up one or two lanes of a busy road, blocking two- way traffic.
There is actually a significant opportunity cost to parking even though this is often disregarded. For example, imagine the additional green space that a city could have if we didn’t need as many parking lots. Or imagine your typical crowded soi without cars parked on both sides – we would be moving around at a faster speed and spending less time on our commute.
THE RISE OF RIDESHARING
Uber was launched in Thailand in 2014. Since then, it has been part of a growing conversation about ridesharing and its role in providing affordable, reliable alternatives to individual car ownership.
In the past few years, there has been a tremendous increase in the popularity of ridesharing in Thailand and around the world. Beyond Bangkok, Uber’s service has expanded to Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and Chiang Rai. On a global scale, after seven years of Uber’s launch in San Francisco, the ridesharing app has served over 5 billion trips in over 600 cities and 77 countries.
People have responded positively to having access to a reliable ride and this opportunity is changing the way people move around the city. In Bangkok, Uber complements other existing options of public transportation. In fact 20% of Uber rides start or end near a mass transit system. This indicates that there is a high demand for a reliable service to travel to or from a person’s doorstep to the closest mass transit.
How can ridesharing make transportation even more affordable? The answer is in sharing a ride with someone who is going the exact same direction at the exact same time. This magic can happen with the right technology, which resulted in the creation of uberpool, a product that allows a driver to pick up more people going the same direction at the same time in order to reduce what could have been many separate trips into one single ride.
The impact of uberpool globally within the first seven months of 2016 include reducing the number of miles driven by 312 million and saving approximately 6.2 million gallons of fuel. Imagine what this could do for a city like Bangkok.
In the United States, research has shown that people’s attitudes about individual car ownership are beginning to change due to the accessibility of an affordable and reliable alternative. According to Morgan Stanley, it is estimated that ridesharing will contribute to 25% of the total miles driven globally by 2030.
Ridesharing also enables drivers to earn extra money at the push of a button, turning one of their biggest expenses – a car – into an economic asset. In Thailand, driver partners come from various jobs and backgrounds, including the office employee who drives after work, investors who have free time, civil servants, and people who are between jobs. Uber’s driver partners in Thailand own and drive various types of cars that are offered on the app, including UBERBLACK – a luxurious ride, uberx, an everyday affordable ride and most recently UberFLASH, a pilot project to include taxis in the network.
THE FUTURE OF URBAN MOBILITY
But what does this mean for the future of urban mobility?
It means that there is a huge opportunity to turn every journey into a shared journey, using a combination of ridesharing and mass transit.
Bangkok has always been known as a top destination to visit but rarely known as the world’s most livable city. By embracing shared modes of transportation using existing resources, we could make cities more efficient and perhaps more livable.
If we streamline Bangkok’s traffic and shorten the daily commute, we could gain back time to spend with our family and loved ones. If we can embrace all the changes and possibilities that technology can bring, we will be able to allow ourselves to dream of a better city – a city with more green space than parking lots, a city where there is freedom of movement because there is a choice and access to affordable and reliable transportation.
Decreasing the number of cars on the streets of Bangkok may seem like an impossible task because it has been a problem that no one has ever been able to solve before. But at Uber, we deeply believe that technology has given us another opportunity. And when that opportunity is the difference between reclaiming your city and improving your lifestyle and your daily commute, it is surely an opportunity that is well worth embracing.