TRANSIT is very stumped to fathom on one of the many complaints from Kota Damansara bus riders on the RapidKL bus service that were uncovered by the Free Malaysia Today internet portal. This is indeed the first time complaint we ever heard about … peeing bus drivers! Full article after the jump.
Kota Damansara transit a pain (Free Malaysia Today)
February 8, 2011
Low-income earners in Kota Damansara have no choice, but to rely on poorly-run public transport.
PETALING JAYA: Even with access to public transport, getting around town is still a pain for Kota Damansara’s residents.
Irregular and poor service are some of the problems that plague commuters here, even with the area’s status of a developing township.
Section 8 resident Jeyanthy Narasima told FMT that it was faster to take the bus to the General Hospital in KL (GHKL), 20km away, than it was to the Sungai Buloh Hospital, 7km away.
[TRANSIT: The current KL-CBD centric approach in designing the Greater KL transit network does not suit local commuters whose trips are confined within the suburban centers. Even for those who can afford not to ride the bus, congestion along the fringes of the city border show mobility requirements targeting other urban centers within Greater KL are also unmet.
What makes it worse is that back before 2007, RapidKL had a somewhat decent local bus service, but many of the bus routes were ‘streamlined’ with trunk buses on the orders of the then-CEO.]
“There are no buses from my area to Sungai Buloh,” said the 42-year-old cleaner. “Although the hospital is only 7km away, I’d rather take a taxi or hitch a ride in a friend’s car.”
However, taxi drivers in the area often took advantage of the situation by charging their passengers a flat rate of RM20 to RM25 per journey to the [Sg. Buloh] hospital.
[TRANSIT: Any surprise there?]
As such, Jeyanthy said that she had to spend more than 1.5 hours travelling to KL for her medical checkups. This did not include the half-an-hour-or-more waiting time for a bus.
[TRANSIT Looks and Says: If the fairly new online community can come up with a visually simple and comprehensible bus route for RapidKL, what more can be said on the lack of attention by our government-subsidised operators (yes, RapidKL, RapidPenang and NadiPutra, you need to pay attention to this) to ensure all bus routes are properly charted out in maps that relate to the most familiar geographical and territorial landmarks (as evident in this poor tourist’s grouse on how hard it is to familiarize with routes plied by RapidPenang). They can just pay a few bucks to college trainees to draw simple lines on Google Maps, complete with names of interchanges and stops.]
“Sometimes the bus drivers are late, and come after 45 minutes due to traffic jams in KL,” she said, adding that she had to rely on RapidKL’s U88 and Metrobus’ 99 service.
Getting off at the Pasar Seni LRT station, she would then have to take another Metrobus service to GHKL.
Drivers’ bad manners were also an issue with the Section 8 residents. “Bus drivers here don’t wait for us. As soon as we get on the bus, they take off very fast,” she said.
Jeyanthy added that she had scolded the bus drivers on many occasions, only to get a scolding in return. “They don’t have any manners,” she said, referring to both Metrobus and RapidKL staff. “They even do the same thing to sick and old people.”
RapidKL drivers, she complained, were also guilty of relieving themselves at the last stop in the U88 route.
“They will do this everyday. They will go to the TNB substation near the last U88 stop and relieve themselves in front of all the passengers,” she said.
TRANSIT Says: We can’t believe RapidKL drivers can be easily caught with their pants down!
No direct line
Siti Saudar, 26, who stays in the same area, told FMT that there was no direct line from her apartments to her former office at the Menara Telekom building near the Kerinchi LRT station.
To get to work, Siti can either take the U88 or Bus Expressway Transit (BET) 6.30am service.
[TRANSIT Says: Although direct service is more attractive, it consumes much resources and hence, lesser number of rolling stocks can be made to serve fewer numbers of potential riders. That is why better organization & service integration is so important. Simpler routes with interchanges at strategic intersections mean more services over less travel distances: more frequent and faster service.
The Kota Damansara-Pasar Seni RapidBET is already a good line to begin with – it is the traffic jam on Persiaran Surian that delays the journey. Possible solutions include BET lanes (dubbed as Rapidways?) and BET buses using NKVE and Bukit Lanjan – Jalan Duta Highway to KL Sentral instead of having to mix with slow traffic along the LDP and Jalan Syed Putra (the ever congested Universiti-MidValley stretch).]
If she took the BET, she would arrive at the Pasar Seni LRT station, and take the LRT to Kerinchi. The U88, on the other hand, was a longer ride, stopping by the Asia Jaya LRT station.
Both trips, however, had a travel time of between one hour and 90 minutes.
[TRANSIT Says: And most of that travel time is waiting at the beginning & end of the route because there is congestion caused by a lack of comprehensive route planning between RapidKL, SPAD, and local councils.]
Siti said that she would always be late for work if she missed the early morning bus. As a result, her company punished her by refusing a yearly increment.
“I was always scolded for coming in late. You needed to get 80% early attendance if you wanted a pay increment,” she said. “If I had a car, I would be at the office in a short time.”
[TRANSIT Says: We believe BET line capacities (and speeds) can be increased with proper channelization of services. The BET should travel via Duta-SPRINT or Duta-NKVE from KL Sentral to a hub in the eastern side of Kota Damansara, and there should be local circulator lines connecting inner suburbs of Kota Damansara (both on the western and on the eastern side). On the western side, there should be a ‘gateway’ interchange stop that would allow riders to transfer to lines cutting across the Sg Buloh – Paya Jaras conurbation.]
Her mother, Umi Zubaidah Ismaon, was even more critical of RapidKL’s on-and-off frequency during its operating hours.
“The bus is not regular at all, especially when people want to go home. Sometimes there is one bus at the stop, sometimes there are three buses, sometimes there aren’t any,” she said.
[TRANSIT: The standard bus bunching complaint caused by traffic congestion, customer behaviour and poor route management & supervision.]
Umi also said that the buses were often full during evening peak hours, causing some drivers to ignore bus stops.
She also had an axe to grind with the Metrobus route 99 drivers in the area, claiming that they drove like “gangsters”.
Umi added that Metrobus drivers also kept a close eye on RapidKL’s operations, as the two companies shared bus routes. “They use walkie-talkies to talk to each other and say, ‘U88 is moving. Get ready, okay!’,” she said.
[TRANSIT Says: We’re told that unregulated competition will make public transport service better – but it does not work and only wastes resources. This is exactly why independent operators MUST be included in transit planning the first place, but as companies competing to provide quality service to the government or local public transport authority. We’ll work together for now, but later “Shape up, or ship out” – should be the message.]
Other residents in the area with business in next-door Sungai Buloh were often punished by the lack of buses.
[TRANSIT Says: Again, work on the hub-and-spoke model. RapidBET can act as a ‘trunk’ line, and circulator lines can act as ‘local’ lines. Better than mere feeders, the circulator lines provide locals intracity travel during off peak hours. Circulator services should be contracted out to independent operators, especially the mini buses.]
Single mother Hawa Hashim, 43, used to send her two of her children by motorbike to a religious secondary school in nearby Kampung Paya Jaras, less than 10km away.
A Section 8 resident as well, Hawa will have a tough time coping with this task when another of her seven children graduates from primary school.
The cake seller told FMT that the only public transport into Sungai Buloh from Kota Damansara was through rickety minibuses.
“The minibus doesn’t go in the morning. If you do take it, it goes to Bandar Sungai Buloh, and then you have to take the Selangor Omnibus to Kampung Paya Jaras,” she said.
Although a two-hour ride one-way, this was the only way her children could come home.
Hawa also said that the minibus company that took care of this route only had three buses available, and were all prone to breakdowns.
“They are very old, uncomfortable and have lots of problems. Once, the bus’ exhaust pipe came out. Another time, it just broke down as it was climbing up a hill,” she said.
In one instance, after picking up passengers from a broken-down bus, a second bus from the same company also broke down.
[TRANSIT Says: Ok, collectively – “Aiyoh!” – this is what happens because everyone is expecting everyone else to take charge and make the investments into public transport that are desperately needed – for a better local bus system that can actually reach people – instead of investments that we are told that we need.]
“In one week, the Selangor bus will only run for three or four days,” he said, adding that there was no way of knowing when a bus would come or not. “If you wait at the bus stop and if it doesn’t come after an hour, you know that it’s not going to come.”
[TRANSIT Says: Again, another concrete reason why independent operators MUST be involved in the public transport picture! Kota Damansara area used to be called Sungai Buloh, and yet it has no direct service to the now neighbouring Sungai Buloh?]
Sando also said the company did not have enough workers to drive the buses.
However, he said that taxi drivers in the area always knew when the buses were not operating, and would turn off their meters on these days.
“If the bus is there, then taxi drivers will use the meter; if the bus isn’t there, then they won’t use it,” he said.
“The government must have a notice board to tell the people here when the bus is not coming. It shouldn’t be that expensive; then the people would be able to know and plan when they want to go,” he added.
[TRANSIT Says: Even at RapidKL stations there are hardly any information on feeder bus schedules … so perhaps instead of informing the public when bus services are not available, we could see why bus services are not being provided by the company on certain days – and then see what can be done about that. ]
The peeing driver … On that note, we are so speechless, that we have nothing to say. One might think, “why should TRANSIT single out bus drivers fulfilling the call of nature?” But shouldn’t drivers have places (more decent than the side of a power substation) where transit manning operators can do their personal chores far from the views of the riders.
Again, all of the problems identified above, from the peeing to the poor scheduling to the broken down buses are all symptoms of a public transport system that is in shambles, lacking investment, organization, and management.
We know that RapidKL and RapidPenang, which are supposed to set the standard, do not meet the expectations of the public and TRANSIT in many areas. This is not suggesting that they are not trying or not improving – but we have to understand that public transport users should not be forced to expect poor standards and low quality of service just because they are presumed to be poor or from the ‘lower-income group’ (as the phrase usually goes).
What say you?