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Apiwat Ratanawaraha: Street-Smart David vs Digital Goliath: Competitive Dynamics between the Top and Bottom of the Informal Mobility Pyramid in Bangkok

parked motorcycles
Motorcycle taxis in Bangkok

Date and location: October 3, 4:30 p.m. in 115 West Sibley Hall

Apiwat Ratanawaraha is an associate professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. His teaching and research cover land policy and management, infrastructure finance, technology and innovation policy, and strategic foresight. His recent and ongoing research focuses on urban issues in Thailand, including the futures of Thai urban life from womb to tomb, foreign ownership of land, informal mobility, parking policy, and urban citizen science. His publications include The Land Economy of Thailand (2015); “How Operators’ Legal Status Affects Safety of Intercity Buses in Thailand”(with Saksith Chalermpong, Transportation Research Record 2672 [2018]); and a chapter on Bangkok in Parking: An International Perspective (with Saksith Chalermpong, Elsevier, forthcoming).

Ratanawaraha holds a B.Eng. in urban engineering from the University of Tokyo, an M.Phil. in land economy from the University of Cambridge, and an M.C.P. and a Ph.D. in economic development and technology policy from MIT. He was a visiting assistant professor at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and a visiting scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute.


Motorcycle taxis are everywhere in Bangkok, serving millions of trips a day throughout the city. Rent-seeking activities and informal governance at the street level have allowed the operators and the “influential people” to capture monopoly rents from the relatively captive market for a long while now. Things have changed since global ride-hailing firms started to provide comparable, if not more convenient, services a few years ago, luring away their passengers and chipping away their market power and income. In this talk, Ratanawaraha uses the concepts of economic rent and competitive dynamics to explain the competition and contention between the two groups of informal operators, and to discuss policy options.

Cosponsored by the Southeast Asia Program

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