PETALING JAYA: It’s time for Malaysia to get serious about developing a more integrated urban transport system in the major cities, says the World Bank.
Growing traffic jams, worsening air quality and poor use of public transport – the bane of road users in Kuala Lumpur – is apparent across the country.
“Not surprisingly, Penang, Johor Baru and Kota Kinabalu are already facing similar urban mobility challenges as those in Kuala Lumpur,” says World Bank senior transportation specialist Luis C. Blancas.
In Kota Kinabalu, for example, transport planning does not take into account land usage while the use of public transport in the city is low (only 8% of the people use it).
The World Bank’s Malaysia Economic Monitor report (June 2015) shows that the planning and delivery of urban transport is highly fragmented – for example, public transport comes under the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), while private transport comes under the Works Ministry.
And although public and private transport are dependent on each other, there is “limited” coordination when it comes to planning and delivery of roads.
The World Bank commended SPAD in its efforts to improve transport here including developing the national public transport master plan, coming up with a new stage bus programme, planning mass transit projects and drafting regulations.
The report says few public transport agencies have developed this level and diversity of capabilities and responsibilities in such a short time but SPAD managed to do this in (primarily) peninsular Malaysia in just four to five years.
Blancas highlights three other cities facing similar challenges as KL – London, Vancouver and Auckland – all of which have had to coordinate across local, state and federal agencies. Yet, all three managed to become some of the most livable cities in the world.
He attributes this to the establishment of lead agencies responsible for all urban transport at metropolitan levels in the cities.
Blancas believes KL is better than other Asean cities such as Jakarta and Manila, which also rely on fragmented agencies.
They are much larger than KL, and also hard to handle.
If Greater KL doesn’t fix its traffic problems, he warns the roads here might deteriorate like Jakarta’s, which according to a Reuters report, has an average traffic movement of only 8.3kph.
KL still has enough time to avoid the worst impacts of a growing urban environment and rapid adoption of cars, he says, but only “if adequate reforms are implemented soon”.