Em­brac­ing Tech­nol­ogy for Re­li­able Trans­porta­tion

Thai-American Business (T-AB) Magazine - - Contents - Writ­ten by: Siripa Jung­sawat

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.

Siripa Jung­sawat

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