MORE often than not, public buses in the Klang Valley can be seen stopping to pick up passengers willy-nilly, be it by the roadside, along a flyover or even at the junction of a busy main road.
The lack of a proper bus stop or lay-by, does not seem to faze the drivers and the practise has been going on for years.
However, their actions not only contribute to traffic congestion but also pose a threat to life and limb as passengers scramble to board the bus on a busy road.
The StarMetro team took a bus ride from one of the ‘invisible’ stops at the junction of 1Utama Shopping Centre and the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) and discovered that there were many such unmarked bus stops along the route.
Regular commuters, however, seemed to know where the bus was going to stop next, even without the presence of a sign.
No buzzer needed to be pressed to inform the driver to stop and passengers disembarked wherever the bus stopped close to their destination.
“We know where the bus stops based on experience and my friend told me to wait here for the bus,” said student Angeline Tan, who studies near 1Utama.
Tan travels on the same bus daily to KL Sentral to get home.
Twenty-five-year-old, Nissa Abdul Rahim who works in the shopping centre and said that initially, she had no clue where to catch the bus but her colleagues told her where to wait.
“I do not know what time the buses come though, but based on experience, the buses pass every 10 to 15 minutes, so I just wait,” she said.
A check on MyRapid, the public transport portal, showed that the routes were listed, but the schedule and timings were not avaiblable.
Nissa, who lives near Mutiara Damansara, said she was confident the buses would arrive, even with no proper schedule, as she had years of experience using the service.
Nissa alighted at the next stop near The Curve Mutiara Damansara and had to run across the busy main road as there were no proper pedestrian walks nearby.
Other dangerous spots for passengers can be found at the corner of the LDP and Jalan SS22/1, opposite Tropicana Mall and along Federal Highway’s flyover bridge before the Sg Rasau (Klang) toll, beside Aeon Bukit Raja.
Passengers who are dropped off at the flyover can be seen climbing over the divider and down the slope before dashing across another highway to get to the shopping center.
A spokesman from the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) engineering department said they did not have the authority to take action against the bus operators.
“We have actually had many discussions on how to tackle this problem and even met with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) representatives but it requires a lot of work as it involves many different parties,” he said.
The spokesman added that there were more than 400 bus stops within MPK’s jurisdiction but as many as 30% were not in use.
The proper bus stop facilities are in place but the routes have been abandoned as drivers ignore the bus stops.
“Sometimes, the buses stop using a route as it is not economical or lucrative anymore,” the spokesman said.
Most of these older bus stops can be seen in residential areas.
Hawker, Tew Yu Sim said this could confuse those who wanted to use public transport as they could be waiting for a bus that would never arrive.
“Buses haven’t stopped at the bus stop on Jalan 17/29 in Petaling Jaya for almost 20 years now. Instead, the buses stop at the junction of Jalan 17/38,” said Tew.
She explained that the buses caused congestion, especially during peak hours, as there was no proper lay-by or bus stop at the junction.
A representative from the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) engineering department added that there were many new routes the council did not know about.
“We have not built any new bus stops recently, but we will do so when residents request for it,” he said.
He added that information on bus routes will only be requested from the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) when they receive requests to build bus stops along a certain road.
Lack of communication
The viability of having bus stops stems from a lack of communication between SPAD and the local authorities.
SPAD is responsible for approving and licensing new bus routes proposed by bus operators but they do not inform the local authorities when the routes are approved.
Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad (SPNB) communications and media affairs vice-president Azhar Ghazali, however, said Rapid KL buses only stopped at specified bus stops and will not pick up passengers up at traffic lights or at unspecified sites.
When asked about the ‘ghost’ bus stops, Azhar believed these were proper bus stops but the local authorities have yet to put up signs for these drop-off points.
“The process of opening new routes is a multi-layered one starting with requests from public groups directed to us and external parties like the local authorities and SPAD, or if there are new housing areas.
“Once all the data is collected, we carry out feasibility studies on necessary routes, with more than 90% of the current 169 routes serviced by Rapid KL as non-profitable and for the people,” he said.
SPNB has also fitted 50 Passenger Information Panels around major bus hubs to provide information on bus movements and arrivals, although Azhar said it was still a work in progress.
SPAD and other bus operators were not available for comment at press time.