Much of the island’s increased traffic over the past few years can in part be explained as “induced demand”, which is a correlation between expanded roads and an increased number of cars.
The situation is only aggravated by national policies to bolster automobile purchases, while simultaneously leaving public transport out of the equation.
The urgent need for modern, dependable buses in Phuket has long been expressed on internet forums, and was even echoed as a “minority” voice at the public hearings for the respective underpass projects.
It has been the will of politicians and contractors that has continued to win over the “majority” through fallacious rhetoric, of the tune “the short-term pain will be worth the long-term gain”.
Yet the only clearly measurable “gain” Phuket can claim to date since such projects broke ground has been in the number of vehicles added to roads – more than 54,000.
According to vehicle registration data from the Land Transport Department, in December 2012 there were a total of 394,720 vehicles registered in Phuket. By February, 2016 that number rose nearly 14 per cent to 449,453 vehicles.
Over the same period, the number of new private sedans and motorbikes jumped 26% and 10% – to 102,918 and 282,229 total registrations, respectively – private taxis and tour buses surged 239% and 73%, to 5,574 and 6,304 registrations, respectively.
Yet, over the same period, the number of “fixed-route buses” in Phuket – which includes inter-provincial and intra-provincial public routes – remained relatively unchanged, embarrassingly inadequate at just over 400 registrations total.
Keep in mind, these figures don’t even account for all the vehicles in Phuket that are registered to provinces.
Such limited options – which include the antiquated pink po thong and other privately-operated songtaew – might be good for the odd, nostalgic selfie, but simply do not suffice as dependable transport for Phuket’s expanding mass.
As it is, more expensive roadworks are prioritised on the short- and mid-term agendas, absent of public buses, which means our commutes are sure to get longer as the quality of life in “paradise” declines. Patience perforce!