By Shana Kongmun
Cars, cars. Not so everywhere it would seem
The last year has seen a tremendous
number of cars on the road due to the government’s first car buyer scheme
which offered first time car buyers a large government rebate. The number of
cars on Chiang Mai roads became overwhelming, add in the Bangkok visitors on
long weekends and holidays and the gridlock was complete. Traffic barely
moved and we were starting to look an awful lot like Bangkok in its worst
However, perhaps it is only good luck on my part at avoiding massive traffic
jams but it seems to me that the number of cars on Chiang Mai roads has
dropped in the past couple of months. A dreaded trip through Tha Pae Gate at
6 p.m. on a weeknight turned out to be incredibly painless with very little
traffic on the roads. This was shortly after the world leaders had all left
Chiang Mai after the Water summit so I put it down to people avoiding town
for fear of getting stuck in a closed road situation as occurred regularly
while they were in town.
Yet, the lighter traffic persists. A discussion with a friend of mine about
this saw him suggesting that perhaps people no longer had the money to pay
for their cars, or to pay for the gas for their cars. The first giddy
experience of owning a new car and driving it around town had turned to the
harsh reality of paying for insurance, gasoline, maintenance, and for many
new drivers, accident repairs.
Perhaps my friend is right and the onslaught of cars on the road is over.
Perhaps people are saving money and waiting for the next flush period and
the cars will fill the roads again. However you look at it, that means there
are an awful lot of people who paid a fair amount of money on a down payment
for a car they can no longer afford. These people have made payments that
ate into their funds needed for other things like health care, food and even
Car makers certainly made a hefty profit out of the deal, selling hundreds
of thousands of cars but did the average person really benefit? I understand
that everyone wants to drive a car. Anyone who has sat at a stoplight in the
heat on their motorbike knows how nice a car is. Anyone who has been hit or
run off the road on their motorbike knows how much safer a car is. I
understand that everyone wants to drive a car and I certainly don’t begrudge
them their safety or comfort. What I do have to ask, however, was any
planning done on the national level before this huge drive? Were
contingencies laid to deal with the massive influx of traffic? It behooves
any government to look at not only the short term benefits of such plans but
also long term costs. Otherwise, it just seems to be the regular person who
has to pay.
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