TRANSIT took note of this interesting set of articles detailing Amar Abang Johari Openg’s continued push to get a Bus Rapid Transit system built in Kuching.
Abang Jo, Satok Assemblyman and Minister of Housing and Urban Development … and possible successor to the Chief Minister of Sarawak, has been calling for the Federal Government to provide RM200 million in funding for Kuching’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit system for nearly 3 years. His most recent push was to hold a public transport conference in Kuching, inviting experts to state the obvious – that Kuching needs a better public transport system and that the Federal Government needs to support the funding.
One would think that a Federal Government that is ready to spend RM7 billion on the LRT extensions and perhaps RM50 billion on the Klang Valley MRT project could somehow find RM200 million (or even RM1bn) for Kuching, the 4th largest city in Malaysia.
On the other hand, Sarawak is the wealthiest state in the Federation of Malaysia – so perhaps one can wonder why a compromise cannot be reached, with both state and federal government investing in public transport.
Abang Jo: We are going the wrong way! (Borneo Post, 24 May 2011)
by Saiful Bahari
KUCHING: Building flyovers and widening roads would not solve traffic congestion problems. These approaches would, in fact, exacerbate the problem by inducing more traffic.
Housing and Urban Development Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said these outdated approaches need to be re-examined.
“The issue here is to manage the demand for travel by making use of existing infrastructure. We term this as a new realism in transport policy,” said Abang Johari at the opening of ‘Focus Result Delivery (FRD) Lab for Kuching Urban Public Transport’ here yesterday,
Abang Johari explained that having greater accessibility to the city would encourage more people to drive their own transport rather than using public transport as an alternative.
“There is an uncontrollable increase in car usage due to the lack of alternative transport in urban Kuching, leading to saturated and congested urban roads,” he said.
Citing examples from the United States, Abang Johari said a few cities there had resorted to dismantling flyovers and replaced them with more public buses and trains.
“What we are looking at are solutions that can be considered. For example, a terminal with parking lots at each housing estate where there would be public transport to bring the people to the city centre.”
He revealed that his ministry was continuously seeking ways to make traffic flow smoother while having greater accessibility to the city via affordable urban public transport.
“We have to find ways to ensure reliability and quick journey time, enhancing comfort and convenience while at the same time ensuring safety to the public.”
On the 5-day lab session, Abang Johari said he hoped the participants would look into issues such as integrating public transport, planning the system, regulatory instruments, body to implement, monitor and regulate and also how to make the system sustainable.
Met by reporters after the opening, Abang Johari revealed that he had requested RM200 million from the federal government to handle the issue.
“In Klang valley, around RM7 billion was allocated to solve the problems and as we are still at the initial stage I had requested for RM200 million which will include discussion sessions on potential and feasible solutions.”
Fifty five participants from both the private and public sectors are attending the lab session. These include officers from Rapid Kuching, Sarawak Transport, Public Works Department and the local councils.
Also present yesterday were Assistant Minister of Housing and Urban Development Abdul Wahab Aziz and the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Affandi Keli.
We don’t specifically know if SPAD (which only operates in Peninsular Malaysia for now) had an observer status at the lab. We certainly hope that they did, given the issues that they will ultimately have to face once they take over from the CVLB in Sarawak and Sabah.
We also hope that members of the public were invited to give feedback and participate in the labs. Otherwise, a major stakeholder group is missing from the mix.
The decision from the lab mentioned above is detailed in the next article:
Bus Rapid Transit system proposed for Kuching (Borneo Post)
Posted on May 28, 2011, Saturday
KUCHING: The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development will evaluate and analyse the proposal to implement the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the city.
The proposal made by Kuching Urban Transport Lab has great potential for Kuching and should be pursued vigorously if conditions for success exist, said its Assistant Minister Abdul Wahab Aziz yesterday.
He revealed that to implement the BRT system, there were several requirements such as availability of wide corridor and large buses.
“The BRT system requires wide corridors. If these corridors do not exist, BRT is either not a low cost option, or may impose unacceptable level of congestion by cars and other traffic.
“And to make efficient use of road space, BRT system must employ large buses. Many Asian cities like Kuching have extensive pra-transit services (licensed vans) but these vehicles cannot be converted to suitable BRT vehicles,” he said when closing the ‘A Focus Result Delivery (FRD) Lab for Kuching Urban Public Transport.’
Wahab said a strong political leadership is necessary for the institutional strengthening of city agencies and bus operators.
In addition, he said BRT design requires considerable traffic engineering skills and adaptation of soft management as existing operations can undermine the proposal.
As BRT operations are demanding, he said operational efficiency requires constant attention and political support.
We at TRANSIT do not “marry” ourselves to one particular technology but we find that bus rapid transit would do a lot towards meeting the needs of rapid transit in Kuching. However, we do not see the value for bus rapid transit alone.
For one thing, the issue of wider corridors and operational efficiencies have to be dealt with and so far there is no example in Malaysia of any effort to deal with all of the existing inefficiencies of the public transport system – let alone rationalizing the way we use our roads, redesigning space for public transport.
Solutions have been implemented in parts because they are piecemeal – and therefore there is no hope for an holistic solution to the problem.
We are a bit disappointed that the Kuching Urban Transport lab decided on Bus Rapid Transit as a technology when there are much more important issues to deal with – especially in terms of organization, management and funding.
Since Kuching has the attention of a cabinet minister and the participation and support of the state government (something that is not yet found in Peninsular Malaysia) the lab should have taken the opportunity to look at the bigger picture of Kuching (and to a lesser extent Sarawak) public transport … and make sure that they designed an effective system of management and governance, and chose the most effective rapid transit technology for their needs.
Could we see a future where each of Sarawak’s divisions has its own local public transport system, supported and connected by the Sarawak government through a Public Transport Authority and the proposed state railway corridor?
Think of something like current system used in Western Australia, with TransWA and the Public Transport Authority at the state level with TransPerth, TransBusselton and TransGeraldton (and now TransGoldfields and TransBunbury) services at the local level.
We believe that Kuching is not ready to talk physical services yet, but we can also tell you that we believe Kuching can support an enhanced bus or Bus Rapid Transit system and a light rail / rapid tram system along the Kota Sentosa – Kuching Sentral – Kuching Airport – Waterfront – Petra Jaya corridor.