TRANSIT took note of this letter by Ipoh resident and City Watch member Victor Chew, a regular contributor to the newspapers.
IPOH: Compelling reasons to revamp city’s public transport system
by Victor Chew
MANY letters and reports have appeared in the newspapers about the problems of public transport in Ipoh city but very little has been done to solve them.
And nothing came out of a seminar in Ipoh last year on the same subject because of the ongoing political crisis in the state. How long must we wait for a comprehensive public transport system to serve Ipoh for the next 10 to 20 years?
Many people, including city officials, think that Ipoh is a small place and that its public transport needs are not urgent. They are wrong. Traffic congestion is becoming worse with schools being the major cause of traffic jams. This problem surfaced in the early 1960s; many mayors tried to solve it but were met with opposition from school bodies when they suggested that schools be relocated from the city centre to the outskirts.
Why not keep the schools where they are but force parents to find alternative ways to sent their children to school? If they want the top schools like the Convent, St Michael’s Institution, Anderson, ACS, Ave Maria and Perak Girls School to be in the city proper, then they have to pay an alternative cost, that of sending their children by schoolbuses.
Their cars, the main cause of traffic congestion, must not be allowed in. They should be made to pay a toll for doing so during school peak hours. During these hours, a toll should be collected from parents who send and fetch their children.
However, in the long run, looking at the way Ipoh is being developed with radical expansion of housing estates all around, its central business district (CBD) will become very congested.
The streets within the CBD will not be able to cope. There will be perpetual traffic jams and lack of parking spaces and these problems will get worse when cars are double-parked. It is already happening outside banks and offices.
The solution is to coordinate the current bus services under a planning commission set up either by the city council or the Perak government. This commission will re-plan the routes to be serviced by existing companies and give them priority to increase services and routes if they want to. If they are unable to fulfil all the planned services, new companies should be allowed to run such services.
This commission will also be responsible for the issue of new licences for public transport and taxis for Ipoh City. In addition, this commission should be given the sole responsibility to take action against defaulting service providers. In this way, we have a central body within the city to control public transport operators, unlike now where everyone seems to have a say and no one wants to say anything.
Furthermore, it is time to start planning a light railway transport system. With the existing electrified dual carriage railway tracks of Keretaapi Tanah Melayu, a central link from Ipoh North to Ipoh South will become possible. Commuter services can run from as far north as Sungai Siput to as far south as Kampar. We also need a few east-west branch lines to complete the system.
A detailed map was produced by two of the speakers in the Ipoh City Watch Seminar on Public Transport; the authorities could use them as a guide.
I hope transport officials will consider the above ideas when planning Ipoh’s public transport system. A good public transport system rejuvenates a city but a city with a messy public transport system is bound to be in a state of decay.
We appreciate the letter from Victor Chew and thank him for pointing out that the political issues in Perak are causing a setback to planning and development.
Unfortunately, TRANSIT also notes that the Perak government was not receptive to our feedback even before this constitutional crisis came about.
TRANSIT had clearly stated our concern about:
1. The setting up of Combined Bus Services, a consortium of Ipoh bus operators that had been given license to control much of the bus services in the city. Here we are concerned that this private consortium would act to reduce competition and the quality of service in the Kinta Valley
2. The lack of government interest in improving public transport. Here our concern was based on the observation that the council and state government were doing nothing to improve public transport to prepare for the arrival of improved KTM Intercity Shuttle service, not to mention the (much delayed) Fast Train Service between KL and Ipoh (now anticipated to start operations in late 2009).
3. The relocation of urban public transport terminals from urban areas. Here TRANSIT expressed our concern about the relocation of bus services to the proposed “Sentral” terminal in Bandar Meru (not to be confused with the Klang Sentral Terminal on Jalan Meru).
To make a long story short, TRANSIT did attend the Kinta Valley Summit and our presentation can be seen here:
- 2008 Nov 09 Kinta Valley Summit on Public Transport (powerpoint presentation)
- Greater Ipoh’s Mass Rapid Transit Proposal (pdf file)
We believe that the solutions for public transport in Ipoh will require the Perak Government and Town Council to set up a proper Local Authority and a State Public Transport Council to help oversee the bus services and integrate bus services with the train services.
Our proposal included a map detailing our vision for improved rapid transit in the Kinta Valley as described by Victor Chew at the end of his letter.