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MAIL OPINION  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 days.
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 savings.
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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Cars, cars. Not so everywhere it would seem