Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bangkok's BTS Skytrain: Statistics And Stairs

A Skytrain with the usual ads on the side walls and windows

The 35* BTS Skytrains run over 475 trips daily on a regular schedule - from 06:00 to midnight, seven days a week. During peak hours they're absolutely standing room only, but if you can avoid those times there's usually a place to sit. There are 37 and a quarter miles (60Km) of track between the Sukhumvit and Silom lines - including the new stops across the Chao Phraya river - with extensions in the works as I write this.

The fares run between 10 and 40 baht per trip, depending on the distance you plan to travel, and while that probably seems cheap to most of us it's still more than many there can afford and they take the buses that operate in a far wider web throughout the city. What I mean is you don't see many vegetable vendors riding the BTS. Sometimes the buses or motorcyle taxis can be more convenient, too - depending on where in the huge metropolis you're going.

Night ride on a Skytrain

The cars are 10 and a half feet (3.2M) wide and 71 and a half feet (21.8M) long. The BTS website claims each train of three cars can carry 1,000 passengers, and estimates that each of those trains keeps 800 cars off the road. As jammed as the streets of Bangkok are, that's worthwhile. While I can't vouch for their statistics, I can be sure that they're always there for me within a few minutes of my arrival at the boarding platform - quiet, clean and cool.

Being more out of shape than I'd like the only bothersome part for me are the stairs. Lots of them, over the course of a single ride. It doesn't seem like a lot at first glance, but on a warmer day when I'm trying to get where I'm going without perspiring through my shirt it's more than I like, and I'm always pleased to see escalators going up at some of the higher-traffic stations, like the one to the left.

On average I'd estimate it to be between 30 to 40 stairs from street level up to the ticketing and gate level, and then another 40-plus up to the boarding level.

Once while heading back home at the end of a long day I'd stood looking up one of these stairways and said to myself (but out loud) "Stairs? AGAIN?" and my friend hasn't let me forget it since. Hardly a time passes that he doesn't repeat that same exclamation of disbelief when we head up to a station.

Invariably I catch myself hurrying up the fool stairs just in time to hear the cautionary beep before the doors close and see the train pull out, but mai pen rai - there's always something of interest to see from the platform while waiting for the next train. It's rarely more than a few minutes.

Looking down the stairs from a boarding platform level

You'll notice there's advertising throughout the terminals as well as on the trains themselves. Stairways in high traffic stations have them on the fronts of each step, as you can see here. Trains have them on the solid sides and as screens on the windows, as in the header photo today. Flat panel video screens run continual commercials for movies, TV shows, personal care products, food and beverages - just like you'd see at home. For the first few days they're entertaining; after a while they become background noise... again, just like at home. Same, same - but different!

Security guard - there are BTS and outside services used

It's a very rare day when you don't see a security guard (or three) while entering or leaving a station. Often at the entry gates and almost certainly on the boarding platform, making sure people behave and stay behind the yellow warning lines along the walkways at the edge of the track troughs. They don't employ people to shove people into the trains as in other parts of Asia, but instead will blow a whistle when too many try to crowd themselves in.

I notice we didn't get to all I'd intended to include today, but I hope you'll forgive me for wandering off track when I write about Thailand. There's so much to share, and part of the fun for me is the journey. Hopefully it is for you, too. NEXT installment we'll try to cover stations and areas.

* All of the statistics in today's post are as of they appear today on the BTS site.


Christian said...

I think they are less frequent at night than during day. I once had to wait around 10 minutes (or it seemed to me that long as I was alone and the station was almost empty). In Europe, there is a notice how long it will take until the next train arrives, but no notice on traffic lights how long it takes until they turn green. In Thailand, it's the other way round!

You noticed the security guard. Now I realize: before you enter the MRT, you have to walk through a metal detector and they might check your luggage. But not for the BTS. Why?

Anonymous said...

I'm like you.. I can handle the steps.. but if I do, I'll never stop sweating.

khunbaobao said...

There are sometimes bag checks in the BTS stations, too. Maybe it's more common in the MRT subway stations because of the enclosed subterranean nature of the setting? A blast underground could potentially do more damage than one up on the track? Just guessing.