Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Public Transportation in Malaysia: Long way to go...

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

On 2 April, Najib while summarising the GTP Annual Report 2011 said Malaysian saw significant improvements in the public transportation as the government stepped up efforts to realise its aspiration for public transport to become the mode of choice for urban commuters. To support this, a survey by PEMANDU revealed that public transport satisfaction increased by 3% in 2011 (from 50 in 2010).

But is this true? Is the reality? The scenario was different when just a week ago (March 28) PSM’s Environment Bureau organised a Roundtable Discussion on Public Transportation in Malaysia. Many organisation and individuals who have been working on this issues felt the country has long way to go.

“Public transportation is a public service, not a profit making sector’ – said of the participants. But the government has privatised this sector and public transport became expensive especially the taxis and the trains. Buses are good option and comparatively cheaper and the government should increase number of the buses.

In 1970s the former Prime Minister Tun Razak brought back idea from Hong Kong and introduces mini buses to support the unemployed ex-police and military man. Around 400 licences were given then and this has helped a lot the people. In 1985, there were around 1000 mini buses in Klang Valley. But in 1996, HICOM took over and kill all the mini buses. The bus services were poorly managed. Now the population in Klang Valley has grown 3 times but the number of buses has gone down.

There were also opinion that rail projects like MRT and LRT are mega project and too expensive. The cost to build MRT in KL is around RM35 million. Generally the user of public transports are the people from the lower income group. The high cost of the construction and maintenance will be then passed to the people. With such huge budget is involved, we cannot rule out that a small group of people going to gain benefit from it.

Not only that, rail system like MRT and LRT requires a good local network such connecting buses and sufficient car parks. But failure of local network in Malaysia is another cause of the failure of our public transportation. Currently, we can see places where there is no proper connecting buses and lack of parking spaces. Not to forget issues like exorbitant parking fees and safety which include proper lighthing. The authority must bring all relevant parties together during the planning stage to ensure better network and facilities are provided. The government should not rely on the private sector to do the planning because they plan according to their interest.

Poor and expensive public transport system made people especially the middle class people to buy cars. There are around 400,000 new cars have been registered in Malaysia last year. Cost of a new bus would be around RM400,000. Lets put an average figure – RM50,000 per car, total amount spent on cars by public is RM20 billion which is equivalent to 50,000 buses. High number of cars leads to environmental problems where vehicles are responsible for about 30% of total carbon dioxide emission in Malaysia. Furthermore, we have to depend on high consumption of fuel every year. Assuming there are 4 million cars on the road with average usage of RM50 per month for petrol, this will cost RM2.4 billion per year.

Having said that, let’s not forget the needs of the special groups like person with disabilities and the elderly. The public transport in Malaysia is largely not disabled friendly. There are no ramps in the buses, most railway stations are not equipped with lifts, taxis do not stop for wheel chair bound passengers and so on.

The participants at the roundtable provided the following tips for the government and perhaps for Najib to consider before he claim that there is tremendous improvement in the public transport system in Malaysia. Among others are:

i. Government to play key role in the planning and managing the public transportation system.
ii. Government should subsidise the public transport because it is a service for the people and not for private sectors to make profit. Government should consider nationalising the public transportation.

iii. Have regular consultations with all relevant stakeholders including the public.
iv. Increase the number of buses instead of huge investment in rail transport.
v. Well planned local network and inter-connection in public transports.
vi. Ensure bus stations, bus stop, vehicles and drivers are disabled friendly. Review Road Transport Act to ensure it recognises the rights of persons with disabilities and enforcement.

vii. Introduce KPI for bus companies and provide incentive for those who provide better service including in the not profitable routes and outskirts.

viii. Create workers cooperative to run the bus service.
ix. Limit number of cars entering cities during peak hours and encourage park and ride concept.
The recommendations above are worth to be considered to ensure better, efficient, affordable and sustainable transportation in Malaysia.

Note: The Roundtable Discussions was participated by representative from CETDEM, FOMCA, TRANSIT, Pahang Consumer Association, Damai Association, KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, SUARAM, Railway Union, Committee to Preserve Jalan Sultan Petaling Street, Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia, Young Voices Selangor, United Voice, Senior Aloud, Parti Sosialis Malaysia and inviduals.

No comments: