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Article taken from TheStar Online.
Wednesday April 29, 2009
Time to revamp KL transport system
By BAVANI M
THE Kuala Lumpur traffic gridlock is costing the city millions of ringgit each day and congestion costs are said to be causing the loss of 2% of Malaysia’s GDP (about RM10bil) every year. Obviously, something concrete must be done to resolve this perennial problem of the city.
So, it is no surprise that the new Federal Territories Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin has declared that the city public transport system needs a review and an overhaul of priorities.
Raja Nong Chik said this in reply to a text message from StarMetro which had asked him to comment on the city public transport system.
Raja Nong Chik had accompanied Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on an inspection tour of the city recently, when they were exposed to the daily woes of the commuters travelling from one place to another in the city.
It was reported that Najib had voiced his concern over the lack of facilities and the serious congestion woes and had ordered that urgent improvements be made.
Raja Nong Chik, however, declined to talk about his plans for the improvements just yet, but promised that he would study the problem and act on the matter soon.
Having an effective and efficient public transportation system is a major factor in determining a city’s livability standard. Studies have shown that cities in countries with excellent transportation systems are the most liveable ones of the world.
At the International Conference on World Class Sustainable Cities 2009 (WCSC’09) round-table discussion last month, the transportation issue was the hot topic where six international speakers and some local experts debated and explored the strategies and best practices that would help turn Kuala Lumpur into a world-class sustainable city.
Most believed that the government should direct more attention to the existing public transport services as reducing traffic congestion in the city would contribute to improving the economic well-being of the nation and people.
They also agreed that the key area needing improvement is transportation, and if the transportation woes are resolved, other areas will follow through.
It was also pointed out that there are many agencies involved in the management of public transportation in the city and that there is a need for one autonomous centralised authority to operate the system like what Singapore, Vancouver and Berlin are having.
The bottom line is that Kuala Lumpur needs to get a grip on its transport problem now, and only then would its residents enjoy a better quality of life.
To say that the government is not doing anything is not true as there are plans to construct a new 42km Kota Damansara-Cheras LRT line and to extend the Kelana Jaya and Ampang LRT lines. There are also plans to buy more train coaches and stage buses.
But many transport advocates see the whole scenario as overlooking the big picture.
Take the buses, for instance. According to the Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit in Klang Valley (Transit), the KL bus service is geared towards the peak hours and during the day you can see buses lined up and waiting at the old city areas of KL.
“Areas of congestion in old KL can be found at the bus stop areas in Lebuh Ampang (Medan Tunku), Jalan Tun H.S. Lee and the Kota Raya area where the Metrobuses are treating the area like their parking garage,” Transit adviser Moaz Yusof Ahmad said.
“There is also the Pasar Seni LRT station, the site of the Pasarama Kota, the so-called Klang Bus Stand and the unofficial Seremban bus stand. which block the traffic along the main road,” Moaz said.
These buses wait in the areas for passengers, blocking traffic and polluting the surrounding area with their burning diesel fuel.
According to Moaz, the solution lies in enforcement to keep buses moving, and building a new staging area for urban buses.
He said the DBKL should station officers in the area to monitor the buses, ensuring that each bus should have a maximum 10-minute waiting time before it had to get on the road, whether its passenger load was full or not.
In the long term, a new staging area will have to be built in KL for the urban buses. The best solution is to take advantage of the Puduraya and Plaza Rakyat areas and ensure that there is a hub and staging area for urban buses built there.
All improvement to public transport must consider the needs of the elderly, the young, and the disabled and must be designed to make it easier for people to use public transport. Improved access to public transport means that service can be faster, congestion can be reduced, and people will find it more convenient.
StarMetro is inviting feedback from city folk on ways to solve the traffic problmes in KL. Please send your emails to email@example.com. Com-ments can also be sent to the Transit email address at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Transit website is at http://transitmy.org.
* Your comments and suggestions will be forwarded to the FT Minister.