The red minibus is not the only type of transport in the
city as tricycle, buses and metered taxies are also available for public use
today. Yet, it is still the most popular and accessible when compared with
typical red mini-bus.
They can be seen in almost every corner of the city. Its
price is the most reasonable for the pocket of the ordinary person than any
other alternatives. For all these reasons the red minibus has been the king
of Chiang Mai roads for a long time.
But, do the people in Chiang Mai enjoy using it this
transport system? Many complaints have been coming to the surface recently,
not only from Thai people but also from some foreign residents and tourists.
can be anywhere - even when breaking traffic rules and regulations.
“I do not think the red minibuses are really safe,”
voiced Sawittree, a 24-year-old Chiang Mai resident. Her comments were
prompted by both the condition of the vehicle and the driving.
and anywhere, the red mini bus driver can suddenly stop without warning or
signaling his indication.
“The red minibus drivers rarely mind other drivers and
riders on the roads. They stop their cars without making any signs to show
us in advance. They stop beside the road and block it without thinking of
other following cars while they hunt for their new passengers,” said
see the red minibuses parking along both sides of a Chiang Mai road,
restricting traffic flow.
Narisa, 40, who has spent over 30 years in Chiang Mai,
also said that the routes of red minibuses was in nonsystematic ways and
always caused her to become frustrated even though she understood a nature
of their job. She felt their numbers were greater than necessary so it was
hard to have them controlled. She suggested the red minibuses should not be
allowed to run around the city moats since the road in those areas was too
narrow and had to carry a great deal of cars each day.
“I have to say they are causes of the traffic jams
along the city moat starting from in front of Chang Puak gate, because I
always see some of them just waiting for clients alongside the road and
blocking other cars”, she said.
Narisa also raised a concern over the driver’s bad
behavior. Some passengers were dropped off before they reached their
destination because the drivers saw a new larger group or richer looking
passengers. This behavior could make people think they are selfish and lack
Apart from the ill-mannered driving, some other
complaints were voiced as well. Two temporary foreign residents, Richard,
36, and Simon, 29, said that they did not like the red minibuses’ exhaust
emission and that the city pollution was getting worse through an increase
Following all these complaints, Chiangmai Mail
gave Singhkam Nunti, president of the Lanna Transport Cooperatives, the
opportunity to counter these claims.
“We need all road users to be more open-minded to
understand our situation,” said Singhkam. He said that all the frustration
on any obstructions caused by minibuses could be considered as having
another two causes, not only from his drivers. The first is that most of
Chiang Mai roads have only two or three lanes that do not suit red minibuses
operation. By nature, the service cars have to run slowly in the left lanes
to look for and pick up passengers. He thought all dissatisfaction caused by
the red buses would not happen if only the roads had more lanes and private
vehicles were prohibited from parking along the roadway.
Secondly, he also said passengers who waved for a service
and signaled for their destination in too short a distance or time, as
another factor causing the drivers to stop suddenly and caused frustrations
for following drivers.
Regarding the remarks on air pollution caused from red
minibuses, Singhkam strongly disagreed, saying the amount from the red buses
remains the same or even slightly reduced from the last ten years. On the
other hand, he shifted the blame to be put on personal vehicles that have
increased in number as the major cause of Chiang Mai’s air pollution.
He accepted that a few (2-5 percent he estimated) of
drivers would have passengers get off before reaching the destination.
However, he pledged that these drivers would be fired if he found evidence
to indict them.
Singhkam said that all comments were welcomed to help the
minibus service improve in line with the city growth.
On the other side of the coin, he felt that his
organization was being neglected by local government. The cooperative had
been trying to support the city offering new kinds of transport (metered
taxis, service vans). It is only the only company running this mass
transportation serving all residents and visitors.
However, the cooperative had never received any financial
support to improve this transport service, said Singhkam. The cooperative
has drafted many projects to upgrade the quality of the service and vehicles
but all of them (requiring governmental funding) were rejected.
Amidst the strong attempt to position Chiang Mai as a
regional hub, consideration and support of the city’s transport system has
not been done as seriously as many other projects.
Will Chiang Mai reach the goal of being a regional hub if
core elements in the infrastructure are of poor quality like the situation
of the red minibuses?
The red minibus service is indeed a problem that the government and one
in which all public services should cooperate to improve prior to any
further projects to build Chiang Mai’s growth and international image.