A. J. Windless 
Out Pacing the Traffic
Over the years taxi drivers here in Bangkok have kept me informed, based on the latest report, as to whether Bangkok is the worst or the second worst city in the world for the traffic jams. Recently I was on the light rail system headed home as we approached a sharp right curve that would head into downtown Bangkok. That being the closest the train would get to where I needed to go, I usually get off there, but I have had a lot of difficulty getting a taxi there, so I stayed on the train until we went around the curve to the next stop. In twenty minutes at this station only one taxi came by and he refused to go down Lad Phrao road. I was angry. Subsudized by the government, taxi drivers are not supposed to pick and choose, and refuse to take customers where they need to go, and as indicated in the Bangkok post I could report him to the police department. In this particular case, however, before the night was over I would more than understand and sympathize with his decision. I got back on the train and rode back to the stop I had deliberately passed. No buses would take me in the direction of my neighborhood, but my new plan was to catch a bus and ride it until I reached an area where it might be a little easier to find a taxi. As I approached the stop I spotted a bus just getting ready to pull out, but I could see that the traffic was moving slower than I was, so I thought I would walk a little, perhaps I would pass by whatever was holding things up. That bus never did catch up to me, in fact I caught up to a few more buses and passed them as well. And then I passed another, and another. I walked all the way from the intersection at Lad Phrao and Ratchada to the Ramintha Motorway, a distance of four kilometers. I passed about 10 buses along the way and none of them were able to pass me and regain the lead. And the cars, taxis,  vans, and trucks were all caught in the same congestion as the buses. It wasn't until I got off of Lad Phrao and started walking along the motorway that I finally found a taxi to take me the rest of the way home. Some of the traffic lights here are so long that I think I could catch a healthy afternoon nap just waiting for one of them to change. I wonder if these long lights help things to go more smoothly or if they just contribute to the congestion. I don't know what the standard is for other countries, but as a teenager in the U.S. studying for my driver's license, I remember reading in the manual that traffic lights are usually red  for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. A few weeks ago, however,  just three intersections from where I live I sat in a taxi trying to make a right hand turn. We were at the front of the line and still I watched the meter clock tick for nine minutes while we waited for the light to change. When we pulled up my fare was only 46 baht, but by the time the light changed my fare had climbed to 64 baht. Most of the major intersections here are manually controlled by a police officer that sits in a small hut positioned near the lights. I used to joke to people that reason we were waiting so long was because the police officer went to get a donut or that he fell asleep. I since have noticed that some of the huts have televisions. With a only half of a chuckle, I wonder if perhaps we wait so long at the intersections because the officer only changes the light during commercial breaks.
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