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MAIL OPINION  By Shana Kongmun


Public transportation systems

I just spent a week’s holiday in Shanghai, China and despite the fact that some may think going to a huge city like this one isn’t much of a holiday, I had a very good time. However, the thing that impressed me the most, beyond the continuous din of the honking of car and motorbike horns, was the very efficient public transportation system there called the Metro.
This system of trains comprises 12 different train lines crisscrossing the city, you can literally travel to almost anywhere in this massive city by changing trains. There are Metro stations all over the city and very few places that don’t have a station within a 5 block radius. The most expensive ticket is a whopping 45 baht and will carry you literally from one side of this city of 23.4 million people to the other. It may take a while, but you will get there.
There is an app that you can download to your phone that helps you plan your route as well as the touch screen map on the ticket machines. Ticket machines that take bills even, no need to go stand in line to get coins if you don’t have any. There are an abundance of ticket machines and they are in Chinese and English. Many people have a refillable card as well.
I expected Shanghai to be like Bangkok but worse. Bangkok is around 9 million people and Shanghai nearly 24 million after all. I expected gridlocked traffic and hordes of people. What I found was easy flowing traffic during the day and night and heavy traffic mainly at rush hour. Even then, it still moved. There were a lot of people, it is true but the sidewalks weren’t jammed, the Metro was packed at rush hour, but again, things moved along.
The Metro system in Shanghai is a thing that Bangkokians could fall in love with and we in Chiang Mai only dream about perhaps. Public transportation here is continually promised but the budget from Bangkok seems to fail to materialize. My trip to Shanghai made me realize that the gridlock that envelops Chiang Mai is avoidable. Not only did most people use public transport but there weren’t even that many taxis. When I was too lazy to take the Metro and wanted to take a taxi I often had to wait for one to come along, something that never happens in Bangkok and certainly never happens in Chiang Mai with the red trucks.
The reason that Shanghai does not have the same overabundance of taxis as does Bangkok is, I can only assume, because of the Metro system and the ease and low cost in which one can travel around the city. The Metro system makes Shanghai a much more livable city than Bangkok in many ways, and even Chiang Mai in some. Imagine not having to face the total gridlock that is Tha Pae or Nimmanhaemin starting around 5 p.m.? Imagine being able to get to the Promenada without having to worry about how you will get back (if you don’t own a car or motorbike)?
I admit, I am impressed by the public transportation system in Shanghai and could only wish and dream of the day that Thailand provides its citizens the same.

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Public transportation systems