Bangkok Transit Map

# updated

View Project

Background

Bangkok has been notorious for its traffic congestion since the 1980s. I experienced that first hand as a child and teenager between 1994 and 2004. During those years the initial segments of the BTS SkyTrain and MRT subway were built and opened for service. It was an exciting time to be there for a Seattle kid who had only ridden buses.

Ron Morris’s 2Bangkok.com was the only English language source for news about Bangkok’s infrastructure development. He regularly featured translated updates, research, and commentary from Thai transport historian Wisarut Bholsithi. I checked the site daily and even made my own contributions.

Topological-style map of the 1994 Mass Transit Master Plan from a 1995 issue of Manager Magazine Weekly, redrawn by Wisarut Bholsithi (ca. 2000, 2bangkok.com)
Topological-style map of the 1994 Mass Transit Master Plan from a 1995 issue of Manager Magazine Weekly, redrawn by Wisarut Bholsithi (ca. 2000, 2bangkok.com)

With the BTS SkyTrain carrying passengers and the MRT subway well into construction, future plans seemed a bit more tangible and I was excited about was coming next. So I read through all the information that I could find about mass transit proposals and plans in 2Bangkok.com and drew maps to put it all together.

Future Bangkok Mass Transit Map, ca. 2001, Oran Viriyincy
Future Bangkok Mass Transit Map, ca. 2001, Oran Viriyincy

Notable in this map is the inclusion of Bangkok Governor Samak Sundaravej’s unrealized ring railway plan. You can see cancelled BTS extensions to Pin Klao (mostly replaced by the Orange Line), Sathorn (now the BRT), and Mahachai (duplicated SRT Red Line). I also included lines running under the expressways.

I don’t remember if this was the first one but it is one of the few surviving files on my computer. I probably printed out an official plan map, laid a fresh sheet of paper over it, and traced in the lines from the proposals I gathered with felt markers.

The 1995 map on 2Bangkok was comprehensive but hard to read so I drew a better version.

Future Bangkok Mass Transit Schematic (3rd Edition), 2002, Oran Viriyincy
Future Bangkok Mass Transit Schematic (3rd Edition), 2002, Oran Viriyincy

I don’t know where the 1st and 2nd editions of this map are. I only have the 3rd from 2002. I visited Singapore that year and was influenced by the MRT map, which in turn was influenced by the London tube map created by Harry Beck. I even tried to use their font at least for the bits of English on it. I had not picked up on their station codes. I did not learn Illustrator until a year later, so I drew it in Microsoft Powerpoint.

the author's first ride on the Singapore MRT at newly opened Changi Airport Station in 2002
the author’s first ride on the Singapore MRT at newly opened Changi Airport Station in 2002

In 2004-2005, two maps by adults (remember, I was a teenager then) came out on 2Bangkok that I believe influenced the maps that followed due to how well drawn and professional looking they were.

ITINC map, 2003, Wit Pimkanchanapong
ITINC map, 2003, Wit Pimkanchanapong

Wit Pimkanchanapong’s “If There is No Corruption” (ITINC) map is an art project that mixes existing and planned projects with those of the artist’s own ideas of Bangkok’s never completed mass transit system. 5,000 copies of the map were distributed in 2003. Stylistically, it is a mash up of the London tube map and the Paris Métro map.

large ITINC map on the walls of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, 2010, photo by author
large ITINC map on the walls of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, 2010, photo by author

A unique feature of the ITINC map is the depiction of the Saen Saeb canal and its boat service as “Line 9”. The canal itself flows into the Chao Phraya River using the same style. There are also humerous references to Thai culture in the map notes such as the Songkran Festival and the “Wien Tien” candlelight procession on Buddhist holidays.

While the ITINC is a piece of art intended to be thought provoking, the next map by Chatchawal Phansopa is more an attempt to be an accurate representation of the future based on plans at the time.

The System Map of Bangkok Rail Transit Network, 2005, Chatchawal Phansopa (zoowatch)
The System Map of Bangkok Rail Transit Network, 2005, Chatchawal Phansopa (zoowatch)

Again, this map follows the Beck style of station ticks and interchange rings. The Saen Saep Canal was added in a later revision. Ko Kret, an island in the Chao Phraya River in Nonthaburi, was added. Notice how Bang Kachao, the bend in the Chao Phraya in the south of the map, as well as Ko Kret are drawn.

Up to now the maps I featured have been unofficial maps. This next map is important because it was published as part of the official Mass Rapid Transit Master Plan in Bangkok Metropolitan Region (M-MAP) in 2010.

M-MAP Schematic Diagram, 2010, Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (public domain)
M-MAP Schematic Diagram, 2010, Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (public domain)

This diagram, though it clearly was influenced from Khun Chatchawal’s map, is not as elegantly drawn. They added two sharp bends in the Purple Line to match the actual shape of the route and crammed the Pink Line’s Tiwanon Road stations into a small space. The staggered labels on the Dark Green Line resulting from cramped station spacing are easily confused to be Red Line stations. Station labels are oriented horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. The needless inclusion of a very detailed plan for Suvaranbhumi Airport is bizarre.

Bangkok transit sketch on engineering paper, 2012-08-19, Oran Viriyincy
Bangkok transit sketch on engineering paper, 2012-08-19, Oran Viriyincy

I started honing my transit map making skills in college and was focused on reimplementing designs from world cities in a Seattle context. By 2012, I was finishing my masters degree in transportation engineering and used my transit map portfolio to get my current transit information designer job.

When I first saw the M-MAP I was excited about the plans but the schematic itself was disappointing. With all the experience and skills I developed over the years, I felt that I could take on draw my own map of a system of this scale.

version 1 (2013)

**Map as released on Flickr**
Map as released on Flickr

2013-03-24: Began work in Adobe Illustrator. “Bangkok Metro.ai” created.

2013-04-09: I posed a question on Twitter asking for “examples of well designed bilingual (non-Roman+Roman) transit maps/diagrams”. The recently released version 2.0 of Art Lebedev’s Moscow Metro map was cited.

2013-05-17: Work in progress map posted on Twitter.

Draft version of the map, 2013-05-17, Oran Viriyincy
Draft version of the map, 2013-05-17, Oran Viriyincy

2013-07-25: Tried angling the outer lines diagonally to make labels more readable. Experimenting with interchange symbology. A graphical in context legend.

Western Blue and Purple lines running diagonally to create more space for horizontal station labels without breaking them into multiple lines of text for each language.
Western Blue and Purple lines running diagonally to create more space for horizontal station labels without breaking them into multiple lines of text for each language.

I soon found out that I wasn’t the only person working on a Bangkok map. I first spotted this map on SkyscraperCity on August 19, 2013 while doing research on the latest plans.

Bangkok MRT Master Plan, 2013-07-26, Ravin Sangsittayakorn (archstudent on SkyscraperCity)
Bangkok MRT Master Plan, 2013-07-26, Ravin Sangsittayakorn (archstudent on SkyscraperCity)

Although I practically had a completed map, I kept tinkering with various aspects. Sorry that I did not keep many intermediate versions of the map to show its progress.

Angled station labels compared to horizontal but multi-line labels. Also, station ticks compared to discs. I ended up keeping all station labels horizontal.
Angled station labels compared to horizontal but multi-line labels. Also, station ticks compared to discs. I ended up keeping all station labels horizontal.

2014-02-11: Full map released on Flickr. Description from Flickr page:

A bilingual map of what rapid transit in Bangkok could look like if the current master plan is built. Proposed extensions not in the plan, like the BTS extensions along Bang Na-Trad Road, are also included. Line numbers and color designations are from the official Thai master plan map (old).

The Chao Phraya Express Boat has many different service patterns that cannot be shown here, so only piers are shown.

The current Bangkok BRT and proposed Pathum Thani rail feeder BRT lines are included. Short monorail projects like Chula-Siam are not included.

It is practically complete but I like to tinker with it occasionally so you will see minor edits here and there. I created this map because I wasn’t satisfied with the quality of maps out there and there was no single map that had both Thai and English information.

2014-02-12: Updated station names and corrected English names to conform to RTGS transcription, except certain proper names and commonly translated names. Added lines to line key.

2014-02-13: Corrected “Wat Sakul” to “Wat Salut” Station, “Bang Bumru” to “Bang Bamru”

2014-02-15: Updated Yellow Line stations, Corrected Thai translation of BRT, Minor tweaks to romanized names. Removed express boat connection on southern Purple Line. Disambiguate the two Khae Rai stations by adding nearest sois. Added new Express Boat logo.

2014-02-16: Station label spacing tweaks, more English station name edits

2014-03-15: Variant of map released showing present day system.

2014-04-17: Tried out a more rounded Blue Line loop and even a circular Blue Line

rectagular Blue line with very rounded corners? It had potential but I never tried more substantial changes to make it work.
rectagular Blue line with very rounded corners? It had potential but I never tried more substantial changes to make it work.
what if the Blue Line was a circle? Might be cool as a standalone graphic but didn't fit the shape of Bangkok
what if the Blue Line was a circle? Might be cool as a standalone graphic but didn’t fit the shape of Bangkok

2016-08-21: Created commemorative map for the inauguration of MRT Purple Line service

MRT Purple Line map as an extract of the main map
MRT Purple Line map as an extract of the main map

version 2 “station codes” (2017)

Beta version online at bangkoktransitmap.com.

2017-01-16: Started work on 2nd version of map to include alphanumeric station codes

early work on station codes in station markers
early work on station codes in station markers

2017-04-30: Started work on station locator index

2017-08-27: Registered bangkoktransitmap.com domain name

2017-10-19: Created a geographic version of map from self-created GIS data

map showing physical location of routes, stations, and depots within a 15-20 km radius from Siam Station
map showing physical location of routes, stations, and depots within a 15-20 km radius from Siam Station

2018-10: Began updating map to include preliminary proposals from M-MAP2

comparison of printed map marked up with future lines against work-in-progress on screen
comparison of printed map marked up with future lines against work-in-progress on screen

2019-06-29: Added teaser to website

2019-10-06: Launched website

2019-12-05: Added special 1999 version of map to commemorate 20th anniversary of the BTS Skytrain

version 3 (2020)

Goals:

  • Improve line and station balance in northern half of map. Pink Line still a bit cramped.
  • Structure map to add more interactivity
  • Improve station codes display
  • Update lines and stations. Continue to accomodate future expansion plans.
  • Add language pairs other than Thai and English.
  • ‘Dark mode’ for map

the Map in Use

Since its debut on Flickr, the map has found its way to places I never expected like appearing on TV or being adapted by transit agencies for their use. So far there have been over 60,000 views on Flickr alone plus countless others on its copies. I never really promoted the map much myself so I am surprised by the response. All I can hope for is that it inspires people to create something better and spread good design.

Press coverage

Inspired

Render Thailand’s Bangkok and Vicinity Rail Transit Network Map

via personal communication and [public Facebook comment](https://www.facebook.com/RenderThailand/posts/2176686815924869?comment_id=2179926002267617&reply_comment_id=2179945248932359&__cft__[0]=AZW3MEkKZgA8D4kralnkhod25uYw5eWMjRfd1ZaMOyYnBy0k3mjN8XhNQrJTU31vNVsS3vqW9w6WDFifXwgbZn-PnuvURN6ZsZ5c2uHkMavnxJHdUHtTzAuE7yUWYcrqI4ZOckBBrMsgFfbSbp_Stp72V_VH3O_iLAWnF7w4JJWfng&__tn__=R]-R)
via personal communication and public Facebook comment

Bangkok Expressway and Metro PCL (BEM)

I have to thank a friend of a friend who at the time worked in the publicity department of Bangkok Expressway & Metro PCL, the operating company of the MRT Blue and Purple lines, who noticed the map and got it into the system.

My influence on BEM's official MRT route map.
My influence on BEM’s official MRT route map.
MRT HAPPY BLUE LINE promotional video played on platform information displays
MRT HAPPY BLUE LINE promotional video played on platform information displays
MRT HAPPY BLUE LINE promotional video played on platform information displays
MRT HAPPY BLUE LINE promotional video played on platform information displays

Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA)

Monorail on the Move | 27 Aug 2018 | by MRTA video on YouTube uses the framework of my map to create an animated version showing MRTA’s growing network and highlighting the two monorail projects in progress. That’s the Yellow Line and the Pink Line which runs near our neighborhood in Nonthaburi.

I'll give it to them since I know nothing about Adobe After Effects and Pink Line HYPE
I’ll give it to them since I know nothing about Adobe After Effects and Pink Line HYPE
Stamp of approval am I right? 😝
Stamp of approval am I right? 😝

Gathering more examples… Spotted the map? Caught an error? Made your own? Let me know!