UPDATE 1: In a previous version of the article, the author had wrongly written by accident that the Lagos BRT is RM1.7 million, when it is RM1.7 million/km. The true full cost is RM33 million.
Feature photo is by Mathana Muhilan.
For months I have tried to raise awareness on public transportation issues. Two days ago, my tweet went viral. I saw total chaos for two days in Pasar Seni LRT station due to the high number of people and the following long queues. On the second day, the queue stretched to the staircase and escalators leading from MRT station to the LRT. There would have been serious injuries because those from MRT couldn’t see the crowd from below.
Finally on Thursday, (16 June) RapidKL directed more personnel for crowd control. It was more organised and felt safer. This is just one part of the larger problem with public transport in Malaysia. I mentioned in my tweet that I have complained hundreds of times, let’s just say this is the 101th time I am complaining about the poor public transportation service.
The government, in their wisdom, was kind enough to take immediate steps to give free travel for those in the Klang Valley area. While I note that KTM is also included in this free fare program, most of the public transport services are concentrated in the Klang Valley and Kuala Lumpur area. This is utterly unfair for those who live outside Klang Valley areas.
Government’s free fare subsidy will cost RM155 million public fund. Why was the RM155 million not spent to buy more buses? The first mile and last mile connectivity is in very bad shape. Bus services run at 30 – 60 minutes frequency in many places. Many of the escalators are not working in many stations. For example, MRT Stadium Kajang’s escalators have been out of service since March. Why wasn’t any money allocated to solve this problem? Ironically, the government manages to find funds to build MRT3 while existing bus services and infrastructure are getting worse daily.
Imagine giving out free goodies for extremely terrible service. People keep using public transportation in Malaysia because the alternative, owning a car and the maintenance of it costs ⅓ of our salary (considering monthly payment, maintenance and fuel costs). While many countries have shown how better bus service and BRT as an alternative to trains could help to reduce traffic woes in their countries, Malaysia refuses to adopt a cost effective and efficient system because of politicians’ obsession to build their political monuments like huge, fancy train stations.
In Jakarta, Transjakarta operates over 244KM BRT network with daily ridership over 800,000, this is a proven example how BRT could be very beneficial (IDTP). Furthermore, building BRT is very quite affordable, Lagos 22KM BRT costs USD1.7 million/km including for 220 buses, station and other infra (theIGC). To compare MRT 3 is expected to cost RM31 billion (USD 7.04 billion) (Edge), with this cost in addition to the Klang Valley government could even invest in other states to build new BRT networks.
The people need to demand for a better public transportation system. If we fail to do so the traffic will keep worsening. The current data shows our traffic jams are already worse than we had in 2019. If the current trend continues, it will take a toll on both of our mental and physical health. Let’s unite and fight for a better public transportation system in Malaysia.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mathana Muhilan is a member of TRANSIT Malaysia, and a regular MRT and LRT user. As an op-ed, his views may not be necessarily shared by the organisation.