Thursday, February 24, 2011

SPAD Need To Take The Bus

The debate over the proposed MRT system in the Klang Valley between various non-governmental organisations (NGO) with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) appears to indicate that the latter is banking heavily on the MRT to resolve the public transport woes of Klang Valley residents. The MRT system is kicking off with the proposed 51km Sg Buloh-Kajang line with 35 stations. It also appears that SPAD is neglecting and writing off the bus services not only as an important, but also a critical means of an effective public transport to not only complement but also to enhance the utilisation of the MRT.

As pointed out by the NGO Transit’s statement yesterday, the average daily ridership of MRT in Singapore is 1.95 million, which is only about 63.2% that of buses at 3.09 million. This is despite the fact that Singapore has a much more extensive MRT network of 130km with 79 stations. It also leads to the conclusion that Singapore has a world-class public transport system precisely because of the prominence and role which buses play, as both an alternative and a complement to the MRT system in the city state.

The situation is no different in Hong Kong which has 212km of MTR and rail services with 150 stations ferrying an average of 3.76 million passengers a day. Despite the highly efficient MTR system, the island state has an extensive bus services network dominated by 3 bus companies serving the equivalent number of passengers or more daily. The largest bus company, Kowloon Motor Bus Company alone for example, serves an average of 2.7 million passengers daily.

Hence it is beyond doubt that in a holistic land public transportation plan, bus services form 1 of the 2 critical pillars in any successful public transport model and its contribution cannot be under-estimated.

As at this point of time, RapidKL which provides the main operator of bus services in the Klang Valley has only approximately 800 buses to service a 6 million population in an area the size of 2,800km2. This is a far cry from Singapore which has more than 3,300 buses servicing a 5 million population in a country the size of 482km2 or Hong Kong which has more than 5,500 buses servicing a 7 million population within an area of 1,095km2.

What is more, a plan for the intensification of bus services should precede the implementation of the MRT mega-project for 2 reasons. Firstly, it will be faster to increase the number of buses within a short period of time, to immediately provide relief both traffic congestion and reducing the cost of living for the city dwellers.

Secondly, it’ll also be a much cheaper exercise compared to the MRT project. Assuming each bus costs RM600,000, “flooding” the Klang Valley with an additional 3,000 buses will only cost RM1.8 billion, a tiny fraction of the RM46 billion bill for the MRT.

Therefore, SPAD must immediately provide its Klang Valley bus services blueprint as an adjunct to the MRT blueprint to “complete” the public transport equation for feedback and evaluation by the Klang Valley community. Otherwise the risk is, Malaysians are being presented with a massive RM46 billion proposal which may fail to achieve its lofty goals of transforming our public transport landscape.
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