Bangkok’s BTS Skytrain is a better equivalent to our Light Rail Transit (LRT) or Mass Rail Transit (MRT) Systems since it is an above ground Urban Train System, unlike their Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) System which is a Subway System. “BTS” stands for the “Bangkok Mass Transit System, and if you are wondering where the “M went in their acronym, I have no idea. But hey, since it is their system, they can call it whatever they want.
’Entrance and Ticketing’
Just like on the Bangkok MRT, access to the stations can be thru Stairs and Elevators, but the main ones used are the Escalators since they can move the most number of people efficiently. And unlike on most of Manila’s LRT and MRT lines, their Escalators are pretty well maintained and functional almost all of the time.
As of this writing, they still use the Magnetic Strip Card (MSC) system, which is one thing we have over them since all our LRT and MRT lines now use the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) “Beep” Card System.
Single-Journey Tickets can be bought thru a Vending Machine that only accepts Coins. If you do not have enough coins, you can have your paper bills broken down into them by the Cashiers. The Cashiers themselves don’t sell the tickets, they just exchange coins.
To buy the MSCs, you have to look at the guides next to the vending machines to which station you want to go, and look at the prices next to them. Then you press the button of the said price and drop the coins. If all goes correctly, the machine then issues an MSC.
’Train Platforms and Trains’
The stations are generally very nice, the floors are clean and shiny, with lots of small stores and lots of paid advertisements around.
The same is true with their Train Platforms, and I noticed that they now have Barriers up in place to prevent unintentional (or intentional) access to the tracks. They weren’t there the last time I visited in 2011. But I also noticed that not all stations have them, only the busiest ones. There are also large vertical Television screens on these barriers displaying short commercials.
The Trains themselves externally are nice and well-maintained, with overflowing sticker ads placed all around them.
The inside of the trains are also clean and well-maintained, and the air-conditioning systems are quite strong enough such that the temperature is quite cold inside.
Compared to the Bangkok Subway MRT, the BTS Skytrain is less impressive, but still pretty nice overall. I did notice that it seems to be busier than the Subway MRT, a lot of people ride it all throughout the day whereas the Subway MRT only gets full during Rush Hours. The Skytrain stations are open-air, only the Trains are air-conditioned whereas the entire stations and trains on the Bangkok MRT are all air-conditioned hence it is more comfortable than the Skytrain, although during Rush Hours when there are a lot of people around the MRT Station does get a little bit hot also.
As for comparison to our Train Lines, forget about the absolutely sh#$ty LRT 1 and MRT 2, but it does compare very well to the best Train System in the Philippines right now, the LRT 2. In terms of the Trains and the Stations, the LRT 2 and the BTS Skytrain is about the same in terms of quality, but the use of the Beep Card gives the LRT 2 the advantage. However, the BTS Skytrain lines seem longer, and there are two of them. The number of trains also seem to be more on the BTS Skytrain, probably at least one train longer.
The BTS Skytrain is a fast, easy and cheap way to go around Bangkok. As a tourist, it is your best friend in terms of travelling around the Metropolitan area of Bangkok. And it is also a good way to see much of the city. When I am not too tired, I insist on standing and leaning with my back against a post even if there are empty seats around, this is so I can look out of the windows and see the sights.
I am glad that at least one of our train system not only equals it, but also surpasses it, even if only on a much lesser scale. However, take note that for Bangkok this is their MINIMUM standard for the mass train system, which is already equivalent to our BEST train system. We, on the other hand, have to deal with the absolute trashy LRT 1 and MRT 3 systems.
The BTS Skytrain System is continuously being expanded, when I passed by Sukhumvit Road for example after the last Station at Bearing, I can see that the line extension is almost done. It should probably be ready within the year, and will enable even further travel via the Train system soon. Plus a couple more separate lines are either being planned or being constructed, making even cheaper, easier and faster travel around Bangkok possible.