TRANSIT Malaysia is concerned about the temporary free fare scheme roll-out amidst the presently unaddressed downspiraling state of urban public transport in Klang Valley. Lower train and bus frequencies, frequent breakdowns and overcrowding, and dysfunctional walkways and escalators have become more apparent. Better dealings on improving the reliability of public transport would be a more sustainable way to boost ridership and provide affordable (time-wise), cost-effective service without having to go down the route of free public transport.
Unfortunately, the decision to make fares free was made without public input. There was no provision of other options, such as spending on maintenance, service and state-of-good- repair. The RM155 million allocated was not passed through Parliament, reflecting a lack of accountability to Parliament and the people’s representatives.
The same RM155 million could have been used to create and manage an urban public transport trust fund and cross-subsidy program. This will help to secure a sustainable stream of funding to ensure more dependable urban rail and bus services which would earn back current riders’ trust and attract prospective users who want a better alternative to a car.
The public deserves transparency and accountability from all levels of governance on addressing the deteriorating state of rail rolling stock, bus fleet utilisation and the failing urban public transport governance, leading to infrequent public transport services and dilapidated conditions of public transport facilities.
Klang Valley citizens are not looking for free rides. They are looking for user-friendly, convenient, frequent, and highly accessible public transport. At minimum, they want their buses and trains to be safe and reliable. Meanwhile, Malaysians outside the Klang Valley are wondering when they will get serious attention for their public transport needs.
For example, for the past few weeks, public transport quality has been heavily discussed on social media. Twitter user, @HarizRahim, shared photos of poor lighting and dark areas on LRT platforms, concourses, and walkways in and around stations, receiving 6,000 likes.
Similarly, a TikTok video by @umwhyareyouguyshere with 20,000 likes recorded her experience waiting over 2 hours for the MRT feeder bus. She was also confused on how to board the bus and the innacuracy of its tentative schedule.
Both posts received responses sharing the similar sentiment and experiences. Countless subsequent postings ranging from politicians to influencers were of the same nature, proving that this issue is critical to the public.
Political parties, especially those competing in GE15, must listen to the expectations of Malaysians regarding urban transportation. Parties must research into the systemic planning, governance and funding issues that led to our current urban transport mismanagement, particularly unsustainable highway and car-oriented urban growth, and inequitable petrol subsidies that superficially lock the urban population into a perpetual state of private vehicle dependency.
Malaysians do not benefit from the promise of huge, fancy, and expensive mega-projects and unsustainable free rides that ultimately lead to nowhere. If political parties truly intend to solve this problem, they must propose changes in public transport and urban planning policies and develop practical solutions. Otherwise, unsustainable spending will ultimately lead to cutbacks in service, making life even more difficult for Malaysians.