29 May 2008 @ 11:34 AM 

I refer to the Malaysiakini article Bringing ‘Impian LRT’ down to earth.

I fully concur with the views of the writer. I would first like to state that I am an avid supporter of public transportation, having lived in Germany for the past four years. As I was growing up in Malaysia, I used the LRT whenever possible. I am however lucky that I do not travel during rush hour and can’t imagine how it would be like to experience that. I was severely disappointed however with the punctuality and professionalism of the feeder bus service which I attributed mainly to the human factor. This might be why Malaysians prefer the automated LRT system.

In my opinion, the implementation of public transportation in Malaysia is akin to a Catch 22 situation. This is because for it to succeed, there must be people willing to use it, and for people to use it, it must prove to be convenient and useful. Currently, I live in a town of roughly 200 thousand people and use public transportation as I have no need and no means to own a car. The bus system in Germany is operated regionally mostly by private companies or half-owned by the government. It is fully integrated with the German rail system and I cannot praise enough the ease and punctuality of the German public transportation system.

I would like to put forward my thoughts and some ideas here to maybe hope that one day public transportation in Malaysia could be as reliable. Please forgive me if any of these ideas were employed before but were unsuccessful as it’s been a long time since I’ve been back.

To combat the perception of the public regarding the unreliability of public transport, I propose a one-month free ride on public transport. Emphasise to the public to try using public transport to their workplace and back, and encourage the public to do it on a Sunday even, so that it would not affect their routine.

As Malaysian roads are congested and infrequent buses would be counterproductive to the cause, impose bus-only lanes on all roads to ensure punctuality of the buses. I reckon punctuality and frequency of the buses are the main grouses of the public. In the end, the discipline of the bus drivers themselves is the main factor. LRT feeder buses used to be frequent in the early days of LRT nut not any more.

Ensure that all school, college and university students and senior citizens are given a substantial discount. I propose an unlimited ride system for the duration of minimum one semester or six months on all serviced regions for a price of less than RM200. I compare this to the system in my former German town where 80 Euros allows me to have unlimited rides on my regional public transportation for six months.

Have well-sheltered bus stops at least for stops heading into the city. Each stop must have a map stating the routes serviced, bus schedule, price info, and an elevated ramp to cater for people with disabilities.

Eliminate the gate-control system where bottlenecks occur. Implement instead the ‘spot check’ system where non-uniformed inspectors with relevant IDs will patrol the bus routes and check for valid tickets in the bus or LRT etc. Violators are issued fines immediately and substantially to discourage repeat violations but not too high a high which encourages defaulting on fines or corruption. A proposal of RM50 for the first offence is suggested. The shame of being caught red-handed in public is punishment enough for some.

Have a well-maintained website, a working telephone info service and emphasis to pre-buy tickets before boarding to avoid long queues. Vending machines at busy stops would be a good idea. Offer substantial discounts for travellers with day, weekly, monthly, group tickets. To take an example from my German town: EUR 1.75 per trip (or 60 mins whichever shorter), EUR 4.80 (unlimited day ticket), EUR 6 (group of five, unlimited day), EUR 15 (single weekly), EUR44 (single monthly).

Other more obvious factors are ensuring a well-maintained infrastructure, responsible and well-informed employees and the political will and integrity to make this happen (with huge emphasis on integrity).

With this I hope that the impian of many Malaysians to one day have a world-class public transportation system in Malaysia will be a reality. Mine included.

Originally published in Letters to the Editor in Malaysiakini on 29 May 2008. Available here.

Posted By: Kelvin
Last Edit: 04 Jan 2009 @ 11:34 AM

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