Monday, November 17, 2008

Freeze High Density Development in PJ?

A daily sight, especially on LDP where the traffic load
has already exceeded the capacity it was built.

The Paradigm - A mega commerial high density project undergoing construction
next to the LDP which will lead to further congestion to LDP
and its neighbouring roads.  How did the traffic study get approved?

This issue was reported in The Star Metro a week or so ago, which highlighted the fact that Petaling Jaya faces real risks of becoming over-developed, if not already so. The journalist, Tan Karr Wei spoke to a few local councillors - Cynthia Gabriel and Robert Tan of MBPJ, and myself on the issue. My comments are as follows.
Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua feels that these kinds of developments would eventually lower the quality of life for PJ residents with many long-term implications such as the lack of open spaces, insufficient drainage, traffic congestions, increase in pollution, among others. Pua said that the city was starting to display traits of becoming overdeveloped.

“We are now finding big shopping centres approved by the previous government at busy traffic junctions, or in the middle of residential areas without appropriate access roads and even conversion of open spaces to large commercial and high density residential projects all around PJ. Comparatively, cities such as Singapore or Hong Kong are more built up than PJ but they have excellent accompanying infrastructure like public transportation to maximise convenience and increase livability. The problem for PJ is many of our new developments are approved without any consideration given to public transport infrastructure,” said Pua.

Pua echoed Tan’s concerns on traffic studies: “The fact that these studies were conducted by consultants appointed by developers clearly created a conflict of interest.”

“In addition, they are conducted on the basis that all other matters are equal. This is most often not the case. An example is the traffic study for Tropicana City, which was conducted without taking into account traffic created by a shopping centre a stone’s throw away in Section 19. To make matters worse, the plan is for additional traffic to be diverted into the old Jalan Damansara dividing SS20 and Taman Tun (Dr Ismail), which comes under two separate city councils (DBKL and MBPJ). It also does not take into account that construction work has already commenced for a commercial centre on the Taman Tun side,” said Pua.

He said that traffic study consultants should be answerable to the local council instead of to developers, at the cost of the latter.

Pua said the MBPJ has a role to play in ensuring that there is an overall city masterplan with total planning on the environment, traffic and public transportation network,

However, he felt that the council had a big task at hand where they have to deal with fragmented pieces of land which has been sold or alienated to private developers who would have little or no interest in sharing costs with each other to build public infrastructures like roads.
I'm thinking to coming up with a people petition to the state government to implement a freeze on all new (and yet to be approved) high-rise development (anything above 4 stories?) in Petaling Jaya until such a time when:
  1. The updated and revised Rancang Tempatan Petaling Jaya (RTPJ) is approved by MBPJ and the state government after all necessary due process such as consultation with the people of Petaling Jaya, and

  2. An efficient public transportation system of high quality and frequency is set up to drastically reduce traffic within the city. While by and large, the state government has only bit roles in setting up public transportation services, it can insist that development project plans will only be approved if public transportation issues have been resolved (e.g., new high density projects can only be approved if there will be buses/trains plying the route etc.)
By "freezing" the approval of new development orders, as well as placing strict restrictions on density on those which have unfortunately been approved (but detailed plans yet to be submitted), it will also incentivise the developers to lobby and negotiate with public transport companies such as RapidKL to increase route coverage.

If you stay in Petaling Jaya and are willing to campaign for this movement and promote the petition (e.g., going house-to-house to get signatures for support), and even better, lead the project, please do not hesitate to contact me @ tonypua (at) yahoo (dot) com. I'll then be more than happy to play the role to lobby the state government with your petition.
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