Public transportation with emphasis on quality instead of quantity

The government should consider improving our public transportation system, perhaps more on “quality” instead of “quantity”.

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Published by Malay Mail, MalaysiaNow, Focus Malaysia & Business Today, image from Selangor Journal.

Following the recent Budget 2021 measures involving public transport initiatives of around RM15 billion to enhance mobility of rakyat and stimulate the country’s economy, the government should also keep an eye on other crucial aspects of public transportation, namely accessibility.

This is because the train stations in Malaysia are mostly less accessible, as stated by data scientist Nabil Ersyad on his Twitter thread.

His research, based on his own experience and the use of data analytics, can also be concrete evidence of rakyat’s hardships and their main obstacles in choosing public transportation as their primary mode of transportation, especially in terms of accessibility.

He complained that it takes a long time for people to get to work by using the public transportation system, especially the Klang Valley train systems. He then shared isochrone maps that represent our public transportation’s low accessibility.

What Nabil has shown is something exciting, truthful and indeed an eye-opener for people. The important things he mentioned are that people take about five to 15 minutes to walk to the nearest station and some areas could take longer than that, praising the Montreal stations that cover much more walkable areas for their population compared to Klang Valley.

Based on another Twitter source, Khalid Karim proposed 11 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Corridors that would be more advantageous than the development of MRT3.

By concept, according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the BRT corridor is a section of road or neighbouring roads served by a bus route or multiple bus routes with a minimum length of three kilometres that has dedicated bus lanes.

Khalid explicitly tweeted that “these proposed 11 BRT corridors will give far greater benefits to Klang Valley citizens than one single 40 km MRT3 and only for about 30 per cent of the cost of MRT3.”

As the government intends to allocate large sums of money for the development of public transportation systems, the accessibility aspect of the development process that brings difficulty for people to choose public transportation must also be balanced in this regard.

For instance, most walkways in Malaysia are difficult to access, not in good condition for walking in several areas and far from the community. It is also inconvenient for those who have limited access to shuttle buses or other public transport.

Once all these factors are put into our public transportation system, then it will also make it easier to encourage the rakyat to practise public transportation in their daily lives, thereby also attaining the objective of reducing the country’s carbon footprint that can also directly help Malaysia to move towards a smart city.

But it comes with one necessary condition, which is the smart mobility that specifically aims to reduce congestion and encourage quicker, greener and cheaper transportation choices.

Suppose Malaysia succeeds in encouraging people to fully utilise public transportation while achieving the main goals of smart mobility, the country can be undoubtedly a step closer to becoming a smart city.

Based on Budget 2021, Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, said the allocation would cover the Rapid Transit System Link from Johor to Singapore, the MRT3 project in the Klang Valley and the Gemas-Johor Bharu Electrified Double-Tracking Project (EDTP).

Indeed, the rakyat would be pleased to hear that, especially urban dwellers who rely mostly on public transportation for any of their daily activities. Still, the transportation authorities should also play a part in assisting the government on the improvisations of public transportation services.

After that, the goal of the country to effectively push the people’s demand to utilise public transportation is likely to be achieved similar to how other countries such as Singapore and Japan have managed to do it.

Nevertheless, based on a survey by the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS) in 2019, 87.3 per cent of people in the Klang Valley drive alone to their workplaces in the central business district of Kuala Lumpur, where it is ranked the highest in the world in the single-driver category.

It demonstrates that our country is still far behind other countries in terms of public transportation utilisation, which could be due to the crucial factors that have been neglected by the related authorities in the development process.

That is why the government should consider improving our public transportation system, perhaps more on “quality” instead of “quantity” so that the rakyat can comfortably utilise our public transportation system.

As for managing the dissatisfaction of people with the inefficiency of our public transportation system, the government should start thinking about the real challenges when it comes to public transportation systems, perhaps by taking into account the people’s suggestions like what Nabil and Karim did.

After all, the improvisations on our public transportation system should include the proper urban planning so that it does not hinder rakyat’s intention to choose public transportation as the main alternative.

Farhan Kamarulzaman is Research Assistant at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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