Friday, April 19, 2013

Here A Tuk, There A Tuk, Everywhere A Tuk Tuk

E-I-E-I-O!   This is not about farms or animals, but that children’s song somehow popped into my head when I was thinking about titles.  The parts that sing of the ‘everywhereness’ of the sounds of animals is actually relevant.   In this case the animal is that mode of transportation called a tuk tuk because of the sound emitted by the  2-stroke engines that originally powered them.  During a summer trip, I saw tuk tuks everywhere in the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand.  With tongue in cheek,  I imagined the sight, sound and use of a tuk tuk here at home.

For transporting passengers in southeast Asian cities, the tuk tuk is king of the road.  It was interesting to watch these things buzz through and around traffic, almost like ants moving effortlessly around obstructions in their path.   Kansas City is not quite the bustling metropolis with congested streets like cities where tuk tuks are everywhere, but we do have passengers that need to be transported from point A to point B.  Might be more cost effective to use some tuk tuks between the airport terminals and remote airport parking lots.  Every time I make that trip, it's on a giant bus with a handful of people.  Oops I forgot about where the luggage would go!  Well, how about this one?   I was recently at a Kemper Arena event and had to park a country mile away.  A cab would have certainly been overkill but it would have been convenient to hop in a tuk tuk and whiz to my car. 

Maybe Congress would allow the postal service to use tuk tuks for mail delivery savings since they mandated six-day delivery instead of cutting to five.   Since it's more economical and the sides are open like the mail trucks, tuk tuks could save money.  Plus, there are only three wheels on a tuk tuk, less tire maintenance.  It might not offer enough storage for all the mail on the route, but that wouldn’t be a problem if they could just leave all the junk mail at the facility!  Most of the mail I get doesn’t even make it into the house, the recycle bin gets it before I go in the door.  Maybe Congress will help the postal service move to electronic delivery of junk mail so I can push the delete button and not have to fill up my recycle bin.  Then I would look forward to getting important mail and packages from my tuk tuk driving mailman.    

Trips to the grocery store or other neighborhood destinations could be made in a tuk tuk.  They are much more fuel efficient than my SUV.  After shopping at the night market in Thailand, three of us crawled in the back bench seat for the short trip to our hotel.  For a minute I thought I was on an amusement park ride, but we arrived safely and none of our Thai bargains got flung onto the street.  Of course if I had to drive myself in a tuk tuk, it just wouldn’t be the same.   Perhaps personal ownership of a tuk tuk wouldn’t be that practical, but as a delivery vehicle, the uses are endless.

Tuk tuks are used on golf courses in many countries.  Don't know if it could become a common sight here.   Couldn't be the sputtering tuk tuk like the one I was in.  That just wouldn't work on a golf course.   Serious golf is very quiet and I’ve known a golfer to be thrown off just by the rattling of a snack being opened.  But for hackers, we might enjoy the novelty of driving a tuk tuk from hole to hole, or even seeing colorful, decorated ones carrying refreshment on the back nine!

And now the BBB angle.   Yes, some tuk tuk drivers are working a scam!  According to many travel advisory websites, Bangkok tuk tuk scams are quite the menace.  I don’t know if we get many complaints on cabbies or local transportation companies or not, but in Thailand, consumer protection is not like what we know here and there certainly is no BBB equivalent.   Without a doubt, it’s tuk tuk traveler beware!

It’s not totally absurd to think about how tuk tuks could be used in KC.  Tuk Tuk North America was granted DOT and EPA approval in 2009.   In 2012, a Charleston, SC local entrepreneur had an idea for their use, but city officials were against it.  The idea was also posed as food for thought in a post of the Economy League of Philadelphia.   We don’t have the climate of Charleston so a tuk tuk ride in January could be breezy, but it wouldn't be much  different than a horse drawn carriage on the Plaza as far as feeling winter temperatures.   Also, we don't have the tourist draw of Philadelphia, though I'm sure some would argue that point, but we do have tourists.   However, with recent voter approval of funding, our newest mode of transportation will be streetcars on Main Street downtown.   So it will be a while before tuk tuks are everywhere in Kansas City, but who knows when you might see one here or there.