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Making KL “free at last” (for public transport, at least)

TRANSIT recently took note of a proposal from Jema Khan that the government offer free public transport in the urban areas of the Klang Valley. The original article and our comments were posted here.

Jema suggests that we can start by introducing “free” bus service in the urban areas of KL. Indeed, “free” zones are seen in many cities to encourage local public transport trips. The closest example of a “free” zone is in Perth, Australia (as opposed to a “free” shuttle bus – which can be found in Perth & Penang – among others).

So we spent a few moments thinking about how we could make a “free” public transport service available in Kuala Lumpur – considering, of course, the various factors about public transport in Kuala Lumpur, challenges that would be faced, facilities available, etc.

This is what we came up with:

One way to introduce “free” public transport in KL would be to provide a “free” City Shuttle bus service within the Kuala Lumpur urban area  – basically, inside the MRRi (Jalan Tun Razak, Lebuhraya Mahameru, Jalan Istana).

In order to make this work, we must preserve the existing terminals at Putra, Pasaramakota, KL Sentral, Pekeliling, Pasar Rakyat, and Hang Tuah for stage bus uses. As you know, some of these terminals will be shut down as the Integrated Transport Terminals in Gombak (for Eastbound/East coast-bound express buses) and Sg. Buloh (for Northbound express buses) are built.

Stage buses
The key detail will be to limit the presence of stage bus routes within the city by ensuring that they only drop off passengers at designated sites, then proceed to designated terminals at the edges of the city (near the MRRI) where they can pick up passengers. These terminals can also be used as holding areas and staging areas for city buses (instead of the area streets that are currently used).

City Shuttle Bus Service
RapidKL (and other bus companies under contract) would provide the free “City Shuttle” bus service which would link the urban areas to the terminals – ideally criss-crossing the city with buses.

The process
Stage buses would drop off passengers within the city (Kota Raya, Chow Kit, KLCC, Pudu, Bukit Bintang) that they traditionally drop off passengers at. This would allow a convenient trip in the morning peak and passenger could get to their destinations sooner.

Then, the stage buses would make their way to the nearest “pinggiran” terminal at the edge of the city.

Hentian Putra would service buses from Chow Kit (Jalan Ipoh & Jalan Kuching corridors). Hentian Pekeliling would service buses from Jalan Pahang, Gombak & Genting Klang corridors. KL Sentral or Pasaramakota (Klang bus stand) would service buses from Kota Raya (Federal Highway & Jalan Klang Lama/Jalan Puchong corridors). Hentian Pasar Rakyat or the Hang Tuah bus terminal would service buses from Bukit Bintang (Jalan Loke Yew, Jalan Cheras corridors), and KLCC or Dang Wangi would service buses from Jalan Ampang, etc.

We must continue to allow stage buses into KL but we cannot allow them to continue waiting on KL streets in a manner that causes congestion & inconvenience. In addition, stage buses on streets have no holding areas or operations facilities.

By allowing stage buses to drop off passengers in KL, this provides a convenient service and gets people to their destinations on time (especially during the compressed morning peak).

By forcing stage buses to wait at the bus terminals, this would get rid of a perpetual sore in the urban areas of KL – the city buses sitting around the urban areas, causing traffic congestion. It would also provide staging facilities (offices, toilets, surau, control centre) for bus operators – facilities which currently do not exist.

By providing free City Shuttle bus service, it would encourage public transport users during the daytime hours as well as in the afternoon peak. And since the afternoon peak is less compressed (as fewer people are moving during the peak hours), public transport users may be inclined to stay at the terminals or stay in the city for the evening.

Congestion Charge
In order to get funding for the “free” City Shuttle bus, a congestion charge can be introduced for travel inside the MRRI – once additional buses are made available (so the waiting time is no more than 5 minutes).

Drivers who have to drive into KL will either choose to pay the charge or park at various parking facilities (including the proposed terminals) to use the free City Shuttle and avoid the congestion charge.

Of course, parking and tolls should be structured so that parking charges are highest inside the MRRI, somewhat lesser at the edge, and much lower at the outskirts. This would encourage more passengers to carpool or use public transport – whether stage buses, LRT, and the MRT and proposed Bus-Rapid Transit services – for their trips into KL.


As always we want to know what you think about these crazy proposals that come from TRANSIT. Please email us or comment in the space below. Thank you!

13 replies on “Making KL “free at last” (for public transport, at least)”

let me try to understand here what you are proposing. there are many threads your proposal here
1) stage buses are to drop off passengers at the at Kota Raya / Chow Kit / KLCC, Pudu / Bukit Bintang and then proceed to the pinggiran terminals
2) free “City Shuttle” bus service which would link the urban areas to the terminals
3) the free City Shuttle bus would be paid for by the various measures that you propose

perhaps you can map out your suggestion here as it would be clearer then as where the trunk routes are, and the last mile connectors are at for what you are suggesting. it can be just a scanned picture with broad lines etc.

i still stand by my earlier arguments that free buses are not the answer here as the greater need is to ensure bus timeliness, accessibility, safety, comfort but let’s look at your route proposal here first

Hi William

Thanks for the feedback. We will try to produce the map as soon as possible – but keep in mind that it will not be in great detail, just showing the major “pinggiran” terminals, drop off areas, and connecting routes.

We generally do not agree with free bus service except where it can be a way to embellish & enhance good bus service. Clearly, there would be a need to improve the standards of existing bus services first.

Having stage buses waiting at terminals would do a lot to reduce congestion in the city, which would in turn speed up the movement of City Shuttle buses and taxis. This would encourage more people to use public transport to get into the city (since they have a fast, reliable alternative to driving), which would act to reduce congestion even more.

We need to encourage people to use public transport by giving them the confidence that the experience will be quick, comfortable and relatively convenient.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT


A Catch or trap? What are you referring to? We have been quite open that the plan for a Free City Shuttle Bus service in KL’s core zone will also involve a congestion charge for drivers entering KL.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

Whilst I agree we need to address bus congestion in city n therefore to hv bus terminal at outskirts – one possible objection is the distance btw the terminal n drop off stop. Say if the bus drops off passenger at KLCC n then to proceed to the terminal, the bus would be empty on the way to the terminal. So what happens is bus is full from pick up point till drop off point n then empty to the terminal. Vice versa, during peak hour to pick up passenger at KLCC. Empty buses contribute to jam, inefficient use of fuel etc. That’s why we need to map out the distance for better assessment

Hi William

You are correct that distance between terminals would be an issue for passengers. For operators it would be less of an issue – since those terminals would be a proper staging area with proper facilities.

In most cases the stage buses wait around their unofficial pick up & drop off points for significant periods of time before moving on. That is hardly efficient either.

We will definitely get a map showing the locations of terminals and drop-off points posted by the end of Monday. The diagram will have routes but those will be suggestions only.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

Hi William et al

I did say we would try to have a map ready by the end of Monday, but it looks like I am going to have to push that off for a few days.

I’ve got some family concerns that I have to take care of immediately. Once everything is taken care of I will do my best to get things done as and when I said.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

@Moaz Transitmy
If you grow up in a shaddy wooden plank house where it can even wobble when you kick it, where you still need to use well water. Hardly any electricity appliances in the house except for a few lousy fans, lights and a half past six radio, no TV at all. You even need to “tumpang” (use) neighbour’s fridge to put your food. Your father will lecture you for three to four days for being not thrifty just because FOUR siblings sharing a packet of char kuey teow/ais kacang (ABC) , where you have to walk to school. Once in a while got people mocking you for being poor. Then you come and tell me the reasons that why we should trust this world very much. That is why I never believe this kind of “FREE” things. The world is REAL and CRUEL, all the charity and free stuff for me it’s nothing but all kinds of gimmicks/shenanigans!!

Life isn’t supposed to be fair, is it?

But perhaps you have a point – the service is not really “free” as someone has to pay for it somehow.

So in future we can refer to “free” public transport services as “no-fare” public transport services.

And since many of the services are offered as a perq for “privileged” property owners and shoppers, we can also refer to them as “no-fair” public transport services – until we get decent public transport service in the Klang Valley.

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

Free?? This is out of the world. Many says the cheap KTMB fares resulted in KTM trains packed like sardine, If free, i think we can see commuters hanging on the windows or roof, just like in india..


You should know that many people can say many things. We says that Komuter trains are packed like sardines because the service is carrying 3x the number of passengers using 1/3 of the original fleet. We try to stick to simple explanations for the problems with public transport – it’s much easier that way.

The only way we are going to get people to stop driving to KL is to present them with an alternative – and the only way we are going to get buses to stop causing congestion parking around urban areas is to push them into an alternative.

This proposal finds ways to resolve many existing and future public transport issues.

Regards. Moaz for TRANSIT

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