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Learning the lessons of Curitiba

TRANSIT has noted that the Land Public Transport Commission is going to use best practices of successful railway systems in other countries in the development of the MRT line.

TRANSIT hopes that the Land Public Transport Commission will see beyond the MRT line and look at Best Practices for all types of public transport.

For that reason, we are working on a series of postings about best practices in public transport. This Lesson will focus on public transport in Curitiba, Brazil.


TRANSIT took note of this very interesting feature on Curitiba, Brazil, in response to the recent World Class Sustainable Cities Summit held in KL.

Curitiba: A visionary Brazilian city (The Star)

Tuesday November 30, 2010

A great city does not need record-breaking towers or adjectives, but rather, a far-sighted master plan that puts its citizens’ well-being first.

ONE of the world’s best planned and environmentally friendly urban cities is Curitiba, an unassuming southern Brazilian city that exemplifies the importance of implementing a far-sighted development master plan dating back 40 years.

Curitiba began as a shanty town. In 1654 it was a gold mining camp. By the late 1800s, its population had grown to 50,000. Today it is the capital of the state of Parana with 1.8 million citizens.

Today, Curitiba is recognised for numerous achievements – it is among the world’s most sustainable cities, best planned urban centres and boasts of the world’s best public transportation system and recycling programme.

Car-free: A well-connected public transportation system has made the Brazilian city of Curitiba free of traffic congestion. Image courtesy of The Star.

Similar to cities around the world, Curitiba was confronted with the growing pains of rising urban migration, overcrowding, expanding slums, poverty and pollution.“What made a difference was a master plan where the top priority was elevating the quality of life for our citizens,” explains Curitiba mayor Luciano Ducci who was in Kuala Lumpur recently for the 2nd World Class Sustainable Cities Conference. “Curitiba did not become a model city overnight. It took us 40 years.”

TRANSIT: Thank you for the reality check. It also took 30 years to fix Singapore’s congestion and poor public transport. Think of that the next time you hear (usually from our leaders) that our problems can be fixed in no time at all!

Migration to Curitiba started from the 1940s and by 1960 the population had swelled to nearly half a million people with many European migrants. Mayor Ivo Arzua called for plans to prepare the city for future growth.

A young architect, Jaime Lerner, led a group of like-minded colleagues and planners from the Parana Federal University in presenting a bold, visionary plan for their city, which was later adopted as Curitiba’s master plan. It called for a modern, high-speed public transportation system to minimise the use of cars therefore reducing traffic jams; the preservation of Curitiba’s historic quarter, and the development of clearly marked industrial zones and housing areas.

In 1968, Lerner established the city’s first urban planning division to specifically implement the master plan. Four years later when he became mayor, he ordered the first of many radical changes. Six blocks along a street became a pedestrian zone in just three days. Shop owners and merchants vehemently protested but after seeing the increase in business, they soon demanded for an extension of the pedestrian zone.

Lerner then had hundreds of schoolchildren and their teachers enjoying a day out sitting on the street to draw and paint, much to the dismay of motorists.

Curitiba is not a city for cars. TRANSIT: It is a city for its people. Image courtesy of The Star.

“Of course, this was very emblematic,” Lerner recounted in an interview with the New York Times. “We were trying to say, ‘This city is not for cars.’”

TRANSIT: This is the way that we have to think. Cities are not for cars. They belong to the people. Not some people. Some people want cars. The people want cities that are economically healthy, socially lively, sustainable, green and friendly (among others).

In other words, cars are optional.

Moving people

By the 1980s, Curitiba’s population reached nearly one million. Yet, protected green lungs increased throughout the city. And Curitiba’s acclaimed transportation system was expanded. The city could not begin a light-rail or subway system because it lacked funds. So it made do with buses. What was previously a highway cutting the city into half became busy bus lanes forming a north-south axis for the city’s fleet of modern buses and tubes that ply over 100km routes in and out of the city. The buses operate like a subway system minus the cost. They run on an easily identifiable colour coded system for different zones that are equall priced, even for trips out of the city. And upon reaching a stop, six doors open on each side of the bus for quick exiting and boarding.

“There really isn’t a need for cars,” says Ducci. “We allocated total priority for public transportation because it was very clear that much of the urban issues are due to over-congestion, traffic jams and pollution that would later lead to many ad-hoc measures to contain these problems.”

TRANSIT: And we in Malaysian cities have to live with the consequences of these ad-hoc measures.

Curitiba’s master plan also called for redevelopment of existing buildings. Government departments are housed in retrofitted factories and warehouses; an opera theatre was built on an abandoned quarry. Decommissioned buses are turned into mobile recreation centres for children. [TRANSIT: Great idea!] The Central Business District does not command the heart of the city as in the case of most cities. Instead, it is sited in the outskirts of the city.

A recycling programme took off in the early 1990s way before the current green movement began. Citizens separated their trash at home. These are collected by the city council and sold off to cover operational costs. A practical social services programme was also implemented where salvage collectors could exchange their finds for food.

And while cities, including [those in] Malaysia, are desperately fighting to save their ever shrinking green lungs, Curitiba’s citizens revel in 3.5mil sqm of protected areas teeming with wildlife, including 350 bird species – more than what some countries have.

“Our goal of a bio city is to have 17mil sqm of green areas that are protected from development,” Ducci says. “We have yet to consolidate all our green areas and we are working with wildlife experts, environmental societies and NGOs to reach our goal.”

Many cities, grappling with urban growth issues, are turning to Curitiba for solutions. Various questions were raised by participants at the conference in Kuala Lumpur, mainly by town planners, architects, government officials and concerned citizens. One gentleman wanted to know the cost of Curitiba’s renowned bus system – which could not be answered as it was implemented during the 1970s – and if it is profitable.

“It is a privatised system held by 23 companies and the government does not subsidise it at all,” answers Ducci. “The city council merely dictates the bus routes and keeps its fares affordable. As mostly poor or middle income people utilise the systems, we ensure that it is the same fare, which is about US$1 (RM3.50) whether they are travelling 7km or 70km. It is a matter of will, not money, to ensure that a public transportation system is successful.”

Curitiba’s city council does not just pay lip service to its taxpayers. Development plans submitted to the council are evaluated in a transparent process where even a proposed building’s possibility of blocking wind and sunlight from its neighbours is assessed.

How did Curitiba manage to follow and implement so diligently a master plan that was drawn up in the 1970s? The answer is surprisingly simple: “The plan is carried on to each successive mayor,” says Ducci. “Every plan is tabled to the citizens who are very much aware of what is happening in their city. If the subsequent mayor approves a development or does anything contrary to the agreed plan, Curitiba citizens will boot him out at the next election.

“It is vital to engage the people in all plans that concern their city, their wellbeing and their future. This is integral for a city to be happy, livable and successful.”


Curitiba, ah Curitiba.

We love so much the idea of a city where people come first, and not some people or certain people but all people. We love the idea of a city where citizens are aware and they participate in their communities. We love the idea of a city where people have the power and exercise their power instead of engaging in futile debates and finding problems instead of solutions.

Dare we say that we love Curitiba? That we think it should be considered as an excellent, even “textbook” example of how Malaysia’s cities (especially the less developed ones) can be maintained for prosperity?

62 replies on “Learning the lessons of Curitiba”

it took more than a decade to plan and implement..

unlike here in malaysia… we plan for tomorrow .. and for tomorrow only..once it has been implement tomorrow.. it already outdated..

people should plan with their HEART.. not with money in their mind..

We might miss one essential point here. In Brazil, local governments was another level of government, whose existence was guaranteed by the Brazilian federal constitution, just like the federal and state governments. Any decision made in Curitiba by Curitiba’s people for their city cannot be challenged even by the country’s President. In turn this promote democracy at the very lowest level. The level that is very near to the people.
In our constitution, local governments were initially under the exclusive purview of the state governments. Somehow, KL decided to spread its influence, and now we see that the matter of local governments is now the shared responsibility between Putrajaya and the states (excluding Sabah and Sarawak).
Look what happened to KL draft plan recently. There were many objections and suggestions. But the draft plan was almost intact and unchanged. Because, the decision has been made in Putrajaya long before. And the preview was just a lip service. We should demand for local government election, pronto.

@Chia LP: They were poor. They did not have money. So, they chose buses. We are lucky here because we can afford the megaproject MRT that costs billions. (Some even questioned where did the money come from)

It is worth mentioning that buses met their needs at the time – in fact, their bus rapid transit system had a great deal of excess capacity for many years.

Recently, the government has been looking at investing into a larger capacity form of rapid transit as the Bus Rapid Transit has reached capacities of 10,000 passengers per hour per direction – sort of a threshold number for planning for mass-rail transit.

That means it is quite possible that Curitiba will get an MRT along some of the busiest BRT corridors.

This is not a repudiation of buses. Rather, it shows that the Bus Rapid Transit system has performed to expectations and has reached its capacity “lifetime” on some corridors over a period of 30 years. That is 30 years of good public transport, to be followed by 30 more years with the MRT.

I believe that even if an MRT is built, Curitiba will continue with BRT on many other corridors.

The Jakarta government is also planning to build an MRT system that combines Koridor 1 and Koridor 2 of the Transjakarta Bus Rapid Transit system. It appears that the MRT is not yet necessary but Transjakarta K1 and K2 exceeded what was already a very low design capacity. Transjakarta learned a lot from Koridor 1 and Koridor 2.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

Now, I should have said that buses were not an ideal choice; but that was the best choice for them.

Not for us.

(I believe their BRT system should be upgraded to an LRT system ala Calgary and the like).

We should build LRT right away.

Oh, and spot on about local elections.

Hi Chia

In reality, the LRT infrastructure’s benefit/cost is so little compared to BRT. Prasarana has yet to start paying the principal amount of debts (RM10 billion) from the bailout of PUTRA, STAR and KL Monorail. RM10 billion spent (on behalf of each and every Malaysians) and not even 10% of Greater KL population want to use it.

For the debts to be covered by the time Prasarana’s bond mature, the LRT ticket fee needs to be increased to nearly RM9…. Now the govt is talking about spending RM50 billion for maybe 2 new rail corridors.

Buses with exclusive right of way, can serve Klang Valley better because we’ve no other natural corridors available to serve the population effectively other than using our present roadway corridors.

Nowadays many people are living far away from KL’s CBD, tucked in low density suburbs with links to high speed motorways – where LRT or MRT can’t simply compete (imagine, crooked corridors due to physical barriers – rail operating in less than desired speed, too many stops, sardine-packed condition half of the journey).

I would prefer riding buses using the Expressway Rapid Transit System, for I know I can have a fast, smooth one-rider one-seat ride, and that by using contracted express buses during peak hours, there will be no load-balancing problems.

If we fail to promote traffic restraint and transit priority measures on our present car infrastructure, and continue to dream on the fantasy of being whisked in fantastic-looking trains from the future, we’ll practically go no where (no pun intended).


Yes, but BRT generates the connotations of dedicated roadways for buses.

Now, I’m afraid your ideas of “exclusive right-of-way” and “present roadway corridors” do not really overlap, IMHO; the ROW is the roadway… Or am I thinking down railways lines? (pun…)

However, I support buses on two concepts; the first is the bus lane/priority and the second the use of expressways.

Basically, take the existing bus system, and meld it with the best of Singapore, which would be its bus lanes, interchanges and quality service, and the expressways of KL. That would be a strong bus system, without being “BRT”.

Essentially, the problem with BRT is that it often requires dedicated infrastructure, making it almost a rail system, whereby it’s often better to build rail anyway. An example is Curitiba. I believe Curitiba has since taken BRT too far.

I support the adaptation of the existing system to being bus-favourable, but not BRT, if you get my drift.

Your say?

You made a very interesting comment about KL not being dense enough to support MRT. Actually, KL is dense enough to support MRT or “LRT” providing that they are run along existing, well-used transport corridors. For example, if we had built the Ampang LRT running above or under Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman or Jalan Ampang, instead of running along Sg. Gombak and in the old Ampang Railway subdivision, we would probably have been able to fill the corridor to MRT capacity (40,000 passengers per hour per direction at any point during peak hours).

Today, the Ampang LRT still has excess capacity because it was not built along the existing, successful transport corridors and the Sri Petaling LRT has even more excess capacity.

You suggest that we should build LRT along existing highways. The problem is that few people live and work along these highways in any kind of density that supports mass-rail transit.

There are many existing examples in our rail system where lands near the LRT and KTM have not been redeveloped to take advantage of the LRT.

The Kelana Jaya line (which effectively follows the Federal Highway through Petaling Jaya) is a bit more successful because in Petaling Jaya it “hops” from one side of the Federal Highway to the other to pick up passengers, rather than operating in the middle of the highway. Because it follows along this corridor, it is able to pick up the passengers. In contrast, the Ampang line is quite a distance from Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman and uses the old railway subdivision, basically putting it too far away from potential passengers.

We have been fed this idea that elevated rail lines (whether “LRT”, “MRT” or monorail) can hop from point to point along our existing highways or through our existing streets and developments without much of a challenge.

But there are huge challenge. For one thing, the need to “hop” on the Kelana Jaya line Federal Highway corridor left very tight turns and challenging grades – making it necessary to purchase the ART Mark II technology at increased cost. It also limits the capacity of the line leading to major crowding and congestion.

BRT would take advantage of our vast network of existing roadways & highways which have already been built, to use as “right of way” for the rapid transit system. Making median lanes exclusive to buses and operating in contra-flow fashion will allow buses to turn the median of existing roads and highways into Bus Rapid Transit without requiring significant construction.

Removing buses from mixed traffic operations and putting them into their own exclusive right of way will benefit bus and car drivers by reducing the interactions between cars and buses which causes congestion (for example, buses pulling into and out of bus stops or cars changing lanes in front of buses).

On some corridors, this BRT can be combined with widening projects so that no lanes are actually “lost” to the buses.

You make a good point that a Damansara-Cheras line should come first since it is a very dense public transport corridor. So why not put bus lanes or a simple cost-effective BRT alternative on Jalan Damansara and Jalan Loke Yew now, while waiting for the 8 years that it will take to plan, finance, design, construct and commission the “LRT” or “MRT” line?

That way, the existing public transport users will enjoy better public transport now while waiting for MRT in the future.

And on other corridors where no MRT is possible (like the Federal Highway), public transport users and car drivers can benefit from reduced congestion.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

Interesting enough, KL’s gross density is actually comparable to Singapore’s at around 7,000 ppl/sq km. Granted, this figure is derived from within the WP boundary which is an area one-third of Singapore’s.
Further afield, tram and light rail systems are found in cities such as Strasbourg, Portland, Stuttgart and Sheffield which have barely half or a quarter of KL’s density and population. Many smaller European systems even run through low density residential and farmlands. Their successful implementation rest on the wise selection of routes along travel corridors and more importantly, supporting transport policies and land laws.
Thus, it can be concluded that proper transport policies can help a less ideal route, but also that a good route can be hampered by bad policies. Unfortunately, neither good routes nor supportive policies are in place for KL.

Good point, Ethan.

Another advantage that European transit systems has is the use of trams as the basis of their public transport – whether running in the city centre in special right of way, running underground in tunnels, elevated, or as tram-trains from rural areas to urban areas.

Since they only purchase one type of vehicle they only need one type of station, one type of training, etc. As a result, capital and maintenance costs can be reduced.

I have reason to believe that the original public transport plan for Selangor hoped to take advantage of tram trains and that Subang Jaya station may have been designed to accomodate tram trains – but I haven’t got enough information to prove this yet.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

I agree that the Star LRT should have been built along roads like Tunku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Ampang. That was a disaster in planning and really the only serious part of Star was the Masjid Jamek area.

Now, the highway trick can only be applied very carefully. I ought to have stated that…

1. I am very PJ-centric, as I usually am in that area.
2. I meant LDP and Sprint only, and only in the PJ area.

Now, running down the middle of the highway can be used as a strength. It allows you to have access from both sides of the road, with good use of footbridges linking each side to the central concourse.

Certainly, Putra LRT could have been built with gentler curves and gradients; some of the curves (Jelatek-Dato’ Keramat; Tmn Melati-Terminal PUTRA; Ampang Pk-Damai, etc etc) are stupidly sharp (I estimate curve radii of less than 150m).

On the other hand, Star LRT featured a sharp turn between Bandaraya and Masjid Jamek. I have always favoured the Star LRT principle of conventional everything and no newfangled nonsense like Putra.

Yes, yes; improve the bus routes on that corridor, BUT do not commit to strctures that will become disused after the line is built.

How do you get the figure of 8 years? I predict it can be done in 5.

How is the Federal Highway impossible to construct MRT?


“Unfortunately, neither good routes nor supportive policies are in place for KL.”

Brilliant point!


Trams will not work in inner KL; in areas like Shah Alam, BRT proposals should be convertible to tramways. That I do not dispute.

what about nusajaya ? do they really plan for LRT/ tram/ brt? it is a new city…

putrajaya in initial was built together with monorel.. but only buses serving putrajay right now..

now, they have a sungai buloh new town.. have they plan properly??


TRANSIT has worked with one of the consultants involved in the Iskandar Malaysia transport plan – whether the ideas are accepted by the decision makers is another thing.

Regards, Moaz

Hi Chia

Fed hway does not need a new MRT line… the ktm line is already there.

Greater KL already has three’ natural MRT corridors:

PKlang – Batu Caves
Tg Malim – Seremban
Bricksfield – KLIA

Yeah, each has the potential to go for more than 60,000 passengers per direction per hour… far greater than Singapore’s SMRT, only if our govt is smarter and focus on investment on present rail lines

as for trams, they are perfect for KL, if only we can shed our mindset of roads for people instead of cars. open spaces for people, not cars!

Commercial density must be managed properly – people based activity (not logistics based) does not require cars- having trams circulating in cbd area will reinforce the culture of walking, and this is the pattern that TRANSIT wishes for all central business districts in Malaysia.

We’ve seen successful brt projects in canada, brittain, australia, and other developed countries. major reason is cost effectiveness and seamless integration with the road transit network designs. why not malaysia – our density is not much different, our purchasing power is 3-5 times less than these countries (which solidify the reason for BRT instead of MRT) and our own national plan (10th MP) literally states that multimodal terminals be built upon urban hierarchy (our urban hierarcy = our local roads, collector streets and arterial highways)

Unless we are running out of options, and be willing to foot the bill (an MRT rider has to pay RM9 per ride, not every Malaysian taxpayers), there is no reason for a brand new exclusive rail infrastructure


Sorry, but I just don’t buy it.

I will have you know that…

1. Calgary calculated their cost per ride was summat like 30c for a light rail ride and summat like $1.50 for a bus ride.

2. Capital costs must be absorbed. The money will be sunk in and not recovered for ages. This is why the government is needed. Private companies simply cannot afford the cost.

3. SMRT? Hm… How about SBS? They have a line too…

4. Trams will be too slow to cover KL unless you introduce local/express/shortworking services.

5. Ottawa’s BRT isn’t as successful as it could have been. Only the Brisbane application of BRT is worth talking about; the rest are a joke. Britain has no serious BRT to mention.

6. We are indeed running out of options.

7. I agree with the remainder of the post, which was about the government.

I always believe and support the introduction of tram in Klang Valley. The cost will not be as high as MRT because, well, we already have roads. The area here are not too hilly and most roads are 2 lanes carriageway. By introducing the tram, this will force car users to think twice about their supposed superiority on the road. This will give back the 1st right of way to pedestrian. While we are at it, maybe we can officially open a pedestrian zone as well, e.g. in Bukit Bintang. Cities are for people not cars.


1. It was a different case for other cities with BRT. It depends on transit network design and urban form variables. KL’s real cost per ride for LRT is nearly RM9. If LRT to extend to Shah Alam per ride cost will go far above RM10. Compared that with other surviving independent bus operators – CityLiner on CNG can make it below RM3.

2. We don’t want private gains at the cost of the general public. The successful rail infrastructure projects in Hong Kong and Tokyo are fundamentally based on integration with retail projects. In Hong Kong MTR acquired the land around stations, and real estate profit went to infrastructure. In KL, lines were built to meet few private real estate’s interests, rail companies went bust and escaped unscathed, and all taxpayers have to foot the bill. It happens that the retail places owned by one of the ultrarich conglomerate which happened to own the bust rail company, at the same time reaped massive profits from proximity to transit (case of glaring abuse of taxpayers’ money), yet none of the profit trickles down to settle off the massive infra debt!

No way those who are going to live >15mins walk from MRT (majority of Greater KL population) likes to have his/her tax money used for the project for the same amount as the one who lives a stone’s throw from the station.

4. Trams are used in many central business districts of world class cities. TRANSIT’s proposal is for trams to operate within the city center. The best mode of ground travel in CBDs is walking – anything with speed must be discouraged. CBD-bound commuters would exchange mode of travel from BRT/LRT/EMU to local circulating trams via gateways (such as KL Sentral)

5. Viva BRT in York is a successful BRT implementation, definitely not a joke.

6. We are not running out of options. With the 200million congestion fee system set up for London, the city saves 300million pounds in regained productivity and retail potential per year. They chose traffic restraint and transit priority measures (thru TfL) – rather than having another brand new rail infrastructure that does not blend with the pre-existing urban forms and failing to achieve any tangible results.

Singapore went with ERP, bus system, and then MRT (with high purchasing power they enjoy ‘affordable rate’, and the infra did not cost that much since the MRT alignment was made to hit and divide the land reserves of the poor Malay kampungs (and hence divide and conquer strategy used back then for PAP to consolidate power via gerrymandering), and fresh new high rise residential areas were easily planned – which translates to massive catchment and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) coverage. We can go for a really affordable MRT profit projection – destroy existing settlements for straight alignments and rebuild new TODs at the expense of land owners – a good recipe for disaster.


1. Does your figure of RM 9 include construction? I already said that construction costs have to be swallowed. Operating costs cannot be that high unless something is very wrong. This is also why I said NO to a Shah Alam LRT extension.

2. Well, that’s my point, really; and by the way, the aim should also be at the middle classes who have cars; get them to drive to the station.

4. Just because other cities have trams does not mean we must have trams too.

Okay, they are nice, they work better than buses; but not just yet. There will be multiple issues, such as laying the tracks, reconfiguring junctions, building stops, installing wires, planning routes, procuring trams, constructing depots, etc.

5. Hmm… Perhaps, but remember that “serious” BRT often is incompatible with existing buses. Compatibility must be maxed out; this is why BET with dedicated lanes (not roads) is what I will support.

6. The congestion charge was to get people back onto TfL and NR services; the infrastructure has been there for a century and more.

They had the infrastructure first, then added the charges. We cannot copy this because we lack the infrastructure in the first place.

We cannot put any more burden on the people who are forced to drive by imposing charges until there is a serious alternative.

I’m not quite sure how following Singapore’s major roads broke up the kampungs, but I will not get into a political debate about Singapore on a Malaysian transport forum, as I consider it irrelevant and even degrading for such petty political matters to be brought up. I’m willing to discuss that elsewhere, of course.

Look, there is no perfect solution. I’ve based my alignments on using roads, so as to minimise the damage to existing communities.

Give me a better solution, and prove it better, blow-by-blow, than what I support, namely LRT supported by feeder bus and park-and-ride.


It is worth pointing out that we cannot “swallow” the costs of construction and only plan based on operating costs.

The cost of construction can be amortized, or paid through bonds, or shouldered by the government, or introduced as part of a Build, Operate, Transfer or Build, Own, Operate, Transfer agreement …. but no matter what happens, taxpayers and end users will eventually have to shoulder the costs.

As much as the cost per passenger mile (or km) is high, we must also consider that the fares charged do not tally with the cost of providing the service.

It is not strange that it costs more to get from Petaling Jaya to Gombak by bus than it does by LRT?

Regards, moaz for TRANSIT

Razwan’s comments are in quotation marks. My responses are outside. (I currently only have it from my email; do emails go out before the comments are approved?)

“I always believe and support the introduction of tram in Klang Valley. The cost will not be as high as MRT because, well, we already have roads.”

You still need to create a lot of infrastructure, especially if you want minimum disruption. I might support a good idea based on trams in Inner KL, or maybe the townships, but please, not the whole Klang Valley.

“The area here are not too hilly and most roads are 2 lanes carriageway.”

Are you suggesting we use local roads? The speeds will be limited. Sure they’re not terribly hilly, but then the word “winding” appears in me…

“By introducing the tram, this will force car users to think twice about their supposed superiority on the road. This will give back the 1st right of way to pedestrian.”

Interesting. You mean pedestrians have right-of-way all the way to Port Klang? Bit far, innit?

This is one of the advantages that comes with trams, but I fear it only works at the local level.

“While we are at it, maybe we can officially open a pedestrian zone as well, e.g. in Bukit Bintang. Cities are for people not cars.”

That I will agree with, but trams are not the only thing for this case.

Now, the Klang Valley has a flooding problem. Tell me how you can get around it even half as well as an elevated.

Yes, what I’m saying is that we have to face that if we want to get around these issues, we will have to face the reality that much of the cost will be spent and not recovered for decades.

Hi, Chia!

I have recovered from my sorrows and I have something to dedicate to you. It is called:

Hard & Soft Thinkers

If the train moves
On the railway
Solid but smooth
Iron abstractions
Momentarily occurred
Once I was Mother Earth
With a blanket
Of colourful petals abloom
Grew, their ways –
Then if the train
Cycled through
Without rails
Petal decaying
Being grinded by
A choo choo

Chia, I still feel an immediate green bus system is
suitable for Kuala Lumpur. It is fast and budgetable to implement and needs no worries in the long term as it very flexible in terms of timing system, routes and affordable ticket prices. The above poem written decades ago is to tell you how remorseful I am eventhough I have just recovered from my sorrows for other reasons, that the MRT project is to be carried out after all. I am just wondering if you are of another nationality, perhaps a Singaporean as you seem not to be aware of that only buses can give access to or reachable to many inner parts of a residential area where a tram, LRT, MRT, BRT? is
unable to. For example, Taman Bahagia Station where I live, evethough there were connecting buses to nearby areas, many other nearby areas, too are left behind. I see LRT commuters having to walk to their destinations afar and vice-versa. It may be great exercising for some but I am sure some would have wished they were nearer to their destinations or perhaps not to have bothered their loved ones to fetch them from the station. I also see that the connecting Rapid buses are only
punctual at peak hours. I have traveled to SS2 Macdonalds via them and sometimes it took me to wait for so long, I rather walked or took the cab. Cannot blame the timing system because the passenger crowds varies. But I feel changes can be made if the boss is more concerned that he is
loosing a lot of the public funds if buses go on empty trips like that. So, if we have an emphasized bus system, many many inner Tamans would be accessible. Moreover, riding buses are more heartfelt moves in the public eyes rather than private vehicles. Chia, I think you have a very good brainstorming mind and I am now seeking your assistant to help in supporting and contributing to the bus system instead of the MRT. And I hope I can woo you and others to do it by understanding the following poem I wrote decades ago:

The Point

Horizontals and verticals
Opposite slants
are all the basics-

has the contents of
futuristic speeches
children all grew up
families, equalities

when an image of expression
a standard of affections
us the homo sapiens

a dash of pink
a dash of white
criss cross
an artwork of contours

That is a gift for you again, Chia. I hope you can come “paint” with me, giving ideas to give up the expensive MRT project but keep on promoting the most reasonable to have bus systems for a fastly
increasing population. We can gain the trust of the public by having the most efficient bus transportation around. Thanks from the heart, Kt Sam.

Tell me how buses can possibly be green. If you succeed, I’ll consider it.

Look, if you care to read, I actually support an extension of the BET system as far as it will go; FWIW I’ll even say double-deckers are a good idea for the trunk routes that criss-cross KL on the highways.

Do that first. The infrastructure is there.


It depends on what criteria you are using.

Buses can belch lots of particulates from the diesel (sulfur & soot among others) & create lots of air pollution, but if those buses are replacing SOV (single occupant vehicle) trips then the net benefit is positive.

Other ways to make buses greener might include:

  • Using articulated buses or double decker buses, which reduces the number of buses required to carry the same number of passengers
  • Using Exhaust filters, EURO IV or EURO V diesel, CNG or diesel-hybrid technology, which reduces the actual amount of diesel used and/or reduces pollution levels
  • introducing bus lanes which will reduce congestion by streamlining traffic
  • introducing automatic toll lanes for buses which will reduce braking/acceleration which is inefficient, burns massive amounts of diesel and causes wear and tear
  • introducing electric-powered buses , either fully-independent, powered by overhead wires, or a “mixed” system
  • </ul

    As we have said before, the environmental impact of the construction must be factored into the transport planning. Tunneling will have a significant environmental impact while buses make use of existing roadways.

    Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

Dear Chia
I must admit that I am no professional as Moaz in speaking out or answering readers’ questions. So, I am so sorry again, I have failed. How I wish I have succeeded but I have failed. But I can tell you to refer to websites for information you need to know. It is rare not to have appeared on the screen what one needs to know.

When things are ‘green’ they are meant to sustain the environment. When buses go green, they are meant to have less polluting factors. That is all I know and I am sorry I have failed to be the spokesman for views of your ideas. Thanks for the
cooperation and I hope other readers would give Chia and Moaz a helping hand. With hopes and thanks for more contributors. Rgds, Kt Sam.

Dear Chia
I must admit that I am no professional as Moaz in speaking out or answering readers’ questions. So, I am so sorry again, I have failed. How I wish I have succeeded but I have failed. But I can tell you to refer to websites for information you need to know. It is rare not to have appeared on the screen what one needs to know.

When things are ‘green’ they are meant to sustain the environment. When buses go green, they are meant to have less polluting factors. That is all I know and I am sorry I have failed to be the spokesman for views of your ideas. Thanks for the
cooperation and I hope other readers would give Chia and Moaz a helping hand. With hopes and thanks for more contributors. Rgds, Kt Sam.

…..we lack safe storage for radioactive waste…
Until 1970, the United States, France, and Japan disposed of radioactive wastes in the ocean. Dwarfing all these dumps, however, are of the former Soviet Union, which has seriously and permanently contaminated the Arctic Ocean….

….The US Dept of Energy has spent 20 years and billions of dollars on the nation’s first high-level underground nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Funding for further development was hailed in 2009.

….Altogether, the US reactors now in operation might cost somewhere between $200 billion and $1 trillion to decommissioned. No one knows how much it will cost to store the debris for thousand of years or how it will be done…..

Cunningham & Cunningham 2010

Projects after Projects
Towards West
Heading Home
Towards East
Heading Home

Projects after Projects
Towards North
Leading Friends
Towards South
Leading Friends

Project after Projects
Heading North
Is something old
Heading South
Is something new

Projects after projects
West, East, North, South
I wonder
If it is really ‘true’
That’s all

kt Sam

True, true, Moaz; that’s why I support BET, but not BRT, ‘cos it uses existing infra’. I support using deckers, but not so much artics.

Buses can be greenER, but not truly green.


what’s the use of paying arms and legs for ‘green’ rail system when they will not be as accessible as rapid transit that utilizes present infrastructure, and when they will not shift private to public transport modal share. BET can go above 20,000 passengers per direction per hour with seamless connection with local network lines, but that requires large overhead interchange terminals to be built (need open spaces) and so far in Klang Valley many highways are not suitable for BET.

BET works for cul-de-sac communities that branch off NKVE, KESAS and DUKE, but not for open access communities and commercial zones that have been building parallel to Fed Hway, Jln Klang Lama (great areas for TODs, only if served via BRT) and many other arterial roads.

SOVs remain biggest fuel guzzlers and polluters. one downtown lane with many signal phases can go less than 500 cars per direction per hour, with BRT or trams it can go beyond 10,000 passengers per direction per hour. Collective needs always beat individual needs, anytime.


Zul, I don’t dispute that collective needs to come first.

I object to BRT mainly because it will entail infra being built that essentially cannot be convrted past tram level.

I stick by my guns of BET and LRT. BET has a flexibility that BRT cannot hope to have, unless you branch off (possibly creating congestion on your trunk lines).

We all know public transport is better thank you; you don’t have to teach us that, just like you don’t need to teach Malaysians to appreciate food.

I agree, however, that RM36 bil is appalling. This is caused by the power suits wanting MRT, which is far costlier than LRT and provides little more capacity; why go wider a bit when it’s so much cheaper and easier to have longer trains?

The new MRT is RM36 bil; the 1990s LRTs were what, RM10 bil or so?


Converting past BRT level or tram level is not necessarily something that has to be built into our public transport planning. It is quite possible to introduce a new, higher capacity public transport system alongside, using a different mode of transport.

A good example of this is the Federal Highway – it is a viable and busy bus corridor, with the higher capacity KTM Komuter service running parallel to the Federal Highway from Seri Setia onwards, and the even higher capacity Kelana Jaya LRT line paralleling the Federal Highway through Petaling Jaya.

10-12 public transport corridors using BRT on existing roadways will each be able to move as many as 5,000 passengers per direction per hour – a huge increase over current numbers. In the future, it is quite possible to build an LRT that would parallel the BRT corridor – each mode of transport can provide a different type of service.

As for route flexibility, public transport planners have found that having “one-seat” bus trips in which buses from suburban areas meet on a bus-only roadway, main road, or expressway have a negative impact on public space and create more problems for the public transport operator.

You end up with the same situation whether it is Ottawa (which has a BRT transitway) or KL (which does not) – hundreds of buses entering the city centre, clogging roads and causing incredible levels of congestion. Not to mention, hundreds of passengers running around, or standing and waiting for “their bus” instead of just getting on the first bus that goes in the direction of their particular suburb.

Route consolidation and use of connections would do a lot towards making trips shorter and more convenient. Unfortunately, RapidKL’s attempts to make this happen failed because they did not invest in communicating information to the public and they had no way to ensure that the trunk lines were as fast and frequent as promised.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT


When it comes to underground rail, whether MRT or LRT, the biggest cost will definitely be the tunneling and here is where it gets interesting.

The biggest factor that determines the cost of tunneling is really based on the number of tunnels required, not the size of the tunnels themselves.

As you can imagine, having narrower trains (LRT) allows smaller individual tunnels, or a larger tunnel for both directions. In contrast, wider trains (MRT) require larger tunnels, meaning that it is more likely that two tunnels will have to be dug and constructed.

But what if you are in a situation like KL, where the underground geography makes it more likely that you will need two tunnels (even for an LRT)?

In such a situation, if you are probably going to build 2 individual tunnels, it does not cost much more to make them wider to accommodate MRT.

We agree that there is cost value to having longer, narrower trains, but that must be balanced against the comfort and passenger handling efficiency of the larger and wider MRT carriages and station complexes.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT


First I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! After reading your brainstorming views, I have a Garfield image of you in my mind. As you also have very concrete language usage..”I stick by my guns…”, “…just like you don’t need to teach Malaysians…” and what have you all along to surprise me that you seem to bear a Chinese surname but doesn’t sound like a local one. Since you place yourself to be a brainstormer among readers, you could be testing our patience. So, I was thinking with such high standards of English you are using, I thought you must be a doctorate holder but later thought doctorate holders don’t attack the way you do. I think you would do perfectly and splendidly well working with The Najib Administration. After all, I don’t think you would be of any good raising his support here as you are indeed the rose among the thorns. Thank you so much for your concern in joining Moaz, Zul or this Transit Forum, Chia.


no offense but
obviously, you haven’t learn the simple concept of inflation.

1990 is like 20 years ago
and over time prices of things tends to increase
due to certain reasons


“Buses can be greenER, but not truly green.”

The same can be said for all public transport, they can be greener (cleaner, efficient, whatever) but they can never not pollute.

But if you are complaining about the exhaust from buses, then go look up the concept of greener buses, you will see that are bus that do not have exhaust emission that you seem to complain about…

You accuse me of attacking yet I recall you called me a double-headed snake, so I fail to see your point.

Anyway, I’m a Lower Six student, so there.

Dear Chia,
I am so sorry I did so. But if you reread why I have discouraged transportation that is of the MRT systems as well as reasons of other readers that have reasons towards my views, I should think you would have sided them as well instead of having your brainstorms. It is so obvious that the MRT proposals should not be going on after reviewing all the reasonable negative views. I tried to find out what BET is and thought TRANSIT is right in promoting BRT instead because BET outweighs what the normal bus system has to offer to serve residents. Moreover, your resistance had me so concerned that I thought you might be pretending to be a brainstormer to only tap out the public views. So, that was why I referred you as a double headed snake. Hope you are not one, though and won’t be one in your coming career. But I have heard that if one is too straight- forward, it is not suitable in a profitable world. However, I find it hard to be crooked or a double-headed snake. This is my nature. Smile, good night and have a nice Christmas! Kt Sam.

… You defy belief.

Look, I’ve explained that BRT, unlike BET, is an infrastructure dead end.

I don’t even support MRT; I favour LRT due to lower cost for similar benefit.

I’ve explained my views; you can re-read them; I’ll confirm anything you’re not sure about. Just ask, and I’ll explain; just stop calling me names and dropping insulting hints.

I am so sorry, I won’t like to indulge deeply in this subject and get confused. I think you can peacefully and smoothly discuss this with professionals like Moaz and Zul of Transit. What are they here for? I am so sorry I have given you names but I hope you won’t be so mean to make feel so sorry all the time. It is tiring. So sorry…..

There’s been some comments in my email that haven’t appeared here.

Now, buses will pollute exactly where they are, unless they’re electric-drive.

Oh and I know what’s infaltion, thank you; but inflating to more than 3 times suggests a pump. Anyway, they were built in the mid-to-late nineties, not 1990…

Hi @Chia

Please contact us directly at regarding the comments which you say have not appeared.

TRANSIT has a policy of not editing comments except for the presence/use of foul language and spam. Since you are a regular commenter your comment should have appeared as is.

You are correct about buses polluting exactly where they are – in fact a regular or “clean” diesel bus will produce a significant level of emissions, including carbon emissions, particulate matter, soot and air pollution – much higher than a passenger car.

But if that bus is replacing 50 or more passenger cars, net pollution levels are significantly lower. And if that bus is moving smoothly, not stuck in mixed traffic, there is far less in terms of pollution & emissions.

Which makes the arguments for bus lanes even stronger. If we can place bus lanes in the medians of our highways and expand on the BET system to bring it closer to Bus Rapid Transit we can do a lot to reduce pollution and encourage people to use public transport.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

Dear Readers,

Please do not be misled by the statement of my love for the PM and MRT proposals as stated above. It is a non-existence of my views towards him. My intentions is to bring Muyiddin and Anwar together as stated in my typed letter somewhere in this website. So that as to start a restructuring and forming of a United Malaysian Government. I contacted Anwar’s Office and was told that he should get back to work after the New Year. Also, I shall be leaving for Jakarta during the New Year holidays. I shall try to contact Anwar again once I get back. Thanks with hopes, always.
Kt Sam.

Moaz has swamped me very professionally. XD

“As for route flexibility, public transport planners have found that having “one-seat” bus trips in which buses from suburban areas meet on a bus-only roadway, main road, or expressway have a negative impact on public space and create more problems for the public transport operator.”
“Route consolidation and use of connections would do a lot towards making trips shorter and more convenient. Unfortunately, RapidKL’s attempts to make this happen failed because they did not invest in communicating information to the public and they had no way to ensure that the trunk lines were as fast and frequent as promised.

Correct. I support the Singapore model of interchanges to mix feeder, trunk, TownLink, express and FastForwards all together in one station. I also support creating bus lanes along crucial corridors like the Federal Highway, LDP, Sprint and so on.

These two ideas when combined should create a much more efficient network. As you said, the problem was the inability to generate reliable trunks, hence the breakdown of the system.

In KL, say I want to take the buses from TTDI to Sentral. I get on a feeder at TTDI, change at some random place in Bandar Utama, then take a trunk to Sentral. The connections are poor, and I have no idea if I have time to go to the toilet ‘cos the bus is now, or if I have enough time to go make some ketupat and rendang. (I tried this before, and gave up and took a taxi to Tmn Bahagia.)

In Singapore, say I want to go from Jurong Polyclinic to Bishan Interchange. I can take the 334 from Jurong Polyclinic to Jurong East Interchange, and change to the 52 to Bishan via PIE. Easy and seamless.

I believe if we combine BET, bus lanes and interchange-based network, we can vastly improve the buses.

About the tunnels. I oppose single-tunnel working anyway. In KL, we have to go for the twin-tube model for sure. We can save costs by having smaller tunnels.

The stations can be exactly the same size and there will be little difference, so I don’t see where that comes from.

However, I dispute that wider trains are more efficient. By spreading the same area over greater length, we have more doors serving a lesser depth, which should mean MORE efficient disgorging of human traffic.

If you mean efficiency of having less doors, then I suppose that’s true though…

On the other hand, yes; wider MRT coaches will be nicer to ride in, but I think it’s not worth the extra cost.

Oh btw, when I say “I tried this before”, I meant taking the bus TTDI-Sentral, not making the ketupat and rendang…

Oh and another thing Moaz, the comments that did not appear were not my comments; they were by other people… *confuzzled*

That is certainly confusing. Perhaps some posters are choosing the edit their comments afterwards.

As I said before, we only edit in certain circumstances.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

A “wide” MRT would be in the range of 3meters or more.

If you think in terms of people, a “wide” MRT could hold:

  • one row of passengers sitting on each side (longitudinal seating) with room for 3 rows of standing passengers
  • mixed longitudinal and direction facing seating (2 seats perpendicular to the direction of travel) plus room for 2 rows of standing passengers

In contrast, the narrower “LRT” trains can hold a maximum of 4 rows – 2 rows of longitudinal seating + 2 rows of standing passengers.

Our Ampang line trains fit nicely in between “wide” and “narrow” trains.

I hope this is helpful

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

Yeah, basically what Moaz says about the width.

In terms of measurement, I’d say over 10′ is wide, under 9′ is narrow… I think the STAR trains are something like 9’3″ or so.

BTW Moaz, I saw the letter you wrote to the Star about the double deckers for Penang. Nice to see we’re 100% agreed on that. =D


Glad you enjoyed the letter on the Double Decker buses for Penang.

Of course, we don’t want everyone to be in 100% agreement all the time – then there is no discussion, debate or opportunity to learn.

And I do think we are in reasonable disagreement about BEST (Penang Bridge Shuttle) and a few other topics, which is fine by me.

Happy New Year 2011.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

just sthg to share on multimodal solution. a holistic approach to BRT would not work as the bus stop may be too far from one’s home / office.
too many bus stops would increase the frequency of stopping and hence delays the schedule.
a bike sharing concept combined with BRT may work as seen in Guangzhou

and whilst i think someone may say that these bikes may be subject to theft, i think that we are talking abt Guangzhou here – a place that has pretty high number of crime rates

writing on top of my earlier comments here. b/cos i hv so little faith that anything will be done by the local authorities unless there is opportunity for nice big fat kickback, there is an idea where bike share can be an opportunity for some entrepreneur out there.

of course not all routes can and shld be covered by bicycle, but there are plenty of 1-4 kms distance say where the local bus station is quite far off / within campus. an initiative has already started in mumbai called cycle chalao

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