TRANSIT Malaysia has always been concerned with the termination of bus routes without public consultation. It has been a major issue for the fifteen years we have been providing a voice for public transport issues. What is worse is that the past fifteen years have not led to the necessary changes in policy to prevent this from happening.
Most recently we have been concerned with bus route terminations by RapidKL over the past few months. Throughout the MCO and RMCO periods, RapidKL has terminated a total of 13 bus routes, including 5 of them this December. We’ve calculated the total length of bus routes terminated by RapidKL to be around 190km. This will separate neighbourhoods and districts from city centers, and inconvenience users by making public transport less available, less reliable and less frequent. Some of these essential routes include the 852 between Titiwangsa LRT and Solaris Dutamas, and 754 between UiTM Puncak Perdana and Seksyen 2 Shah Alam.
RapidKL cites “low ridership” and “overlapping routes” as their reasons for terminating these routes. Low ridership is obviously caused by the RMCO set upon Selangor and Kuala Lumpur citizens where we were encouraged to stay home. Malaysians supported RMCO because it is the right thing to do to prevent community spread of Covid-19. We did not expect it would be used as justification to axe services. But neither have they announced any future revival plans of these routes, leading us to believe the routes will not be replaced even once the pandemic has subsided.
An example we can give is the 754 between Shah Alam and Puncak Perdana. Yet, it is the only bus route serving UiTM Puncak Perdana. How will students feel when they return to campus physically to find there are no longer any bus services; their alternative being a RM20
grab fare, more than 5 times the bus fare? How about essential workers that are underpaid yet required to work, who rely on these economical bus services?
Overlapping routes were highlighted by RapidKL, but a more feasible solution for this is to untangle the overlap, and not to terminate the entire route. Another example is RapidKL is terminating the 852, citing the overlap with 851 as their reason. The former is heavily used by
civil servants, office employees at Jalan Duta, and construction workers at Bukit Tunku. RapidKL suggested 851 (Pasar Seni to Dutamas) as an alternative. However, this would be highly inconvenient for some users and adds cost and travel time on others. As a matter of fact, a great deal of 851 does not overlap with 852.
Many angry complaints were voiced out by bus users on social media regarding this major issue, including a civil servant named Fikah Mas. She started a petition gathering 22 signatures from passengers on the bus, and took pictures showing how crowded both bus routes are even during the pandemic. Does RapidKL expect passengers from the 852 to add onto the 851’s bus capacity, and make physical distancing difficult? It’s ironic, since RapidKL is limiting 30-40 in their buses.
Imagine after the pandemic subsides, the additional hundreds of passengers from 852 will merge with the 851 crowd. How unbearable and risky that would be, especially as Covid-19 is still a risk factor? To stuff more passengers to alight at the already overcrowded Masjid Jamek for route 851 does not make sense either. How is the station going to cope with the never ending overcrowding?
While we’ve solely used the 754 and 852 as examples, other bus route terminations like the T204 and T784, plus the numerous bus routes RapidKL has re-routed to cut off from neighbourhoods bare no less implication considering RapidKL announced the closures only 10 days before, without consultation.
RapidKL’s decision to cut back on routes may be based on financial decisions by parent company Prasarana and driven by the Ministry of Finance. Nonetheless, the lack of public consultation is RapidKL’s choice, which is insulting to public transport users already suffering from poor quality public transport and the impact of the RMCO.
Public transport users deserve better. We cannot improve public transport without improving policy and governance. We also cannot improve public transport if the financial and structural models favour cost cutting over service quality; a mediocre compromise.
TRANSIT is asking the Minister of Transport to direct APAD to create national standards for when and how a bus route will be created or terminated. This will ensure that all bus routes and all bus riders start from the same equal foundation. In addition, we ask the Minister of Finance to direct the Ministry of Finance and Prasarana to present a new model for public transport that puts service quality and standards above cost cutting.
Finally, we call upon RapidKL to reverse the termination of bus routes until these standards are created. Any bus route should be evaluated thoroughly and properly, and public opinion should have been sought for before making drastic changes such as termination of a bus
route. Yes, we want these standards and new models to be brought to the public for consultation. As always, we are available to the federal and state governments for these consultations.