Friday, November 2, 2012

Public Transport in Klang Valley

Public Transportation In Klang Valley. The public transportation in Klang Valley has in recent months seen great transformation.

There seems to be a concerted effort to use technology to help improve the system. A taxi company has introduced the GPS technology to its fleet. Now when I call or sms for a cab, I will get an SMS back with a message that tells me how far away the cab is.

On the KTM, LRT and Monorail system, passengers can see on monitors on the platform, the expected arrival times of the trains. Similarly, in bus hubs and in bus stops too, passengers can get latest expected arrival times of their buses. On the RapidKL website, one can key in your location and destination and be given travelling options. The option includes choices of bus / LRT routes and ticket pricing.

Whilst I applaud these improvements, there is still lots more that needs to be done. The current technological improvements serve to strengthen the services of these public transport providers.

However, it does little to encourage more users of public transport. There is generally a negative perception on the reliability and efficiency of our public transport. Of course we will always have to deal with the age old question of the Chicken and Egg; which comes first?

Improved public transport system first or increased ridership to generate income (note I wrote INCOME and NOT PROFIT)

In order to encourage more passengers for public transport, the system must be user friendly, have good efficient connectivity, reliable and shorter waiting and travelling times. There must also be greater emphasize placed in marketing public transport and improving the negative perception of the service.

In a private school outing once, a group of 6 year olds were on a bus. They saw the LRT passing by and one little girl asked her friend, " What's that?". Her friend replied, "oh, that’s the LRT, transport for the poor"

Yes, there must certainly be an image revamp to attract more people to use public transport. Similarly bus stops, train and LRT stations must be turned into user friendly social hubs. If I go and take my bus or train ride to work, I should also be able to purchase my newspaper and perhaps even to make cash withdrawals from the ATM.

Similarly, on my way home, I can also purchase my bread and eggs for next day’s breakfast and perhaps even to take-away my evening dinner. It would also be great if I can pay my utility bills and perhaps also top-up my prepaid phone and internet connection and ASTRO bill.

It would be most convenient too if I can also pay for my housing loan too. Whilst I am waiting for my transport, I can also surf the net. If I am waiting for my bus or taxi, I should not have to be standing in the sun or having to struggle to stay dry when it rains.

The connections between stations and bus / taxi stops should be as near as possible and walkways should be user friendly and well paved and lighted. Passengers should not have to brave and fight traffic simply to get on a bus.Currently, we see taxis parked in bus stops waiting to swindle passengers.

Meanwhile, buses have to stop on the highways and causing traffic congestions and pose a danger to both passengers and other road users. Having said all these, it remains that this is only one part of the solution. For public transportation to serve its purpose, it ultimately boils down to its routing.

LRT routes may be limited to infrastructure but bus routes can and must be given due and serious review. The bus routes must cover residential and high population areas and connected to high people traffic places such as shopping malls, markets and food courts and LRT stations for. Many of these routes may be deemed "unprofitable" but it cannot be disregarded.

Public transportation is a responsibility of the government and must not be planned with profitability as a motivating factor. An efficient public transport system should unite communities and encourage local businesses and expand the local economy.

Our current system in Klang Valley does the opposite. It does not have convenient connections between neighbouring communities. Buses only go from one community straight to the city center. To go to a neigbouring community, one needs to travel all the way down to the city and change to another bus to get back to the next community. The reason there is no direct connection between two neighbouring communities is the short distance or more accurately, the low profit margin factor. What needs to be done?

The local councils must upgrade the bus stops and upgrade the pavements and walkways connecting stations to bus stops. The fundings for these upgrading work can be recovered from the advertising spots that these walkways and bus stops can have. All LRT stations should have sales kiosks made available at minimal cost to other service providers.

This is in order to make these stations as convenient and multi functional as possible. A reference point would be Kelana Jaya station. Shopping malls must be compelled to make spaces available within their property ie covered car park areas as designated taxi and bus stops.

This is to serve two purposes: a comfortable and convenient waiting area for passengers. Secondly, it helps reduce traffic congestion in the main roads as buses and taxis do not block the traffic. Less car park spaces in exchange for conveniences to public transport users is an acceptable exchange. There should be more bus / taxi lanes on major roads for a smoother flow and thus a shorter journey by public transport.

The private sectors should also encourage their employees to use public transport. Therefore, I propose companies to give employees Travel Cards as part of their company benefits. Companies can negotiate for bulk discounts when purchasing these Travel Cards.

Similarly, the government can rebates for these Travel Cards. The solution to improving public transport has to be covered from various angles simultaniously. It cannot and must not be seen from any one or two perspective only.

There must be active participation between service providers and passengers in education and marketing. Both the local authority as well as government bodies and local businesses must also be part of the solution equation. An efficient public transport serves not only to connect people but to safe and protect the environment too. Reducing waiting and travelling time improves productivity and helps grow the economy.

For starters, I would also suggest a FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORT (ie LRT and buses) once a month, perhaps the last Sunday each month. The public is given a FREE RIDE for them to experience public transport and also familiarising themselves with the routes. On that same day, private vehicles will be inconvenienced with having to slow down at designated areas to receive leaflets and flyers about Public Transportations and environmental issues caused by private transportation.

It would also be a very good marketing and promotional gimmick for elected representatives to be seen using public transportation too. By using public transport, they not only are seen encouraging its use but also have first-hand experience of the problems faced by commuters.

More public transport users mean less vehicles on the roads which means less carbon emission into our environment.

"A great and successful city is not where its poor can afford cars but where the rich use public transport"

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