PEOPLE say that traffic congestion in Cheras is a perennial problem.
However, the situation has gone from bad to worse ever since the construction of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT line began in 2012.
The number of lanes has been reduced significantly to make way for the construction, creating traffic bottlenecks in many locations along Jalan Cheras, the Cheras-Kajang (Grand Saga) Highway and East-West Link Expressway.
Motorists can spend up to five hours in the traffic crawl to and from their offices on a daily basis.
Some residents say they even find themselves stuck in a jam at 11pm and on weekends.
A case of overdevelopment
As bad as the situation is currently, it may get worse as massive development projects are in the pipeline to tap the future economic returns of the MRT.
The Kajang Local Plan is also set for its third amendment to convert land use from agricultural to residential, to make way for more houses.
As of now, there are already about 500 housing estates under the Kajang Municipal Council’s (MPKj) jurisdiction; some 200 located along the Cheras-Kajang Highway.
The question on everyone’s mind is: Is Cheras overdeveloped?
“Cheras traffic jams have left me speechless as they no longer follow peak hours,” said Shelly Leong, who works in Petaling Jaya.
“Sometimes, when I finish work at about 11pm, it is still terribly jammed along Jalan Cheras.
“At some stretches affected by the MRT construction, only one vehicle can pass through even though there seems to be two lanes for traffic.
“Naturally, the traffic increases and the long line of vehicles can seem endless,” she said.
Leong believes the future looks bleak as she is not optimistic that existing roads could support the massive housing development projects in the pipeline.
Many wonder if the expected completion of the MRT in 2017 will really solve the problem as MPKj has confirmed that tens of thousands of more housing units are expected in the south of Kajang. These residents will be using the same roads.
Balakong assemblyman Eddie Ng, whose constituency covers most of the housing estates in Cheras, said the Besraya Highway was the only alternative route to several housing estates there but the road was equally congested.
About 90% of residents use the Grand Saga Highway.
He said congestion along the highway had eased slightly after the Federal Government cut the toll rates by half. However, with the ongoing MRT works, the situation took a turn for the worse.
“This is the consequence of development and it is inevitable, However, I hope MRT can speed up their work, even up to 24 hours if possible, as motorists are really tired of the congestion,” he said.
Ng also expressed reservations about the effectiveness of the MRT in coping with the many development projects in the pipeline.
“I guess you cannot say Cheras is overdeveloped if the infrastructure can support it, which is not the case now.
“The highways are very congested and the MRT does not offer complete connectivity to different parts of the Klang Valley.
“For example, if I need to go to Klang and Ulu Klang from Cheras on the same day, would I drive or take the MRT?”
Ng said a detailed study was needed to solve traffic woes in Cheras.
He conceded that town planning in Cheras in the past was bad but all the new development projects require a Traffic Impact Assessment and have to abide by the land use and plot ratio indicated in the local plan.
Serdang MCA vice-chairman Allan Liew felt it was only fair for the government to abolish toll along the Cheras-Kajang Highway as motorists were forced to go through a crawl daily.
“They are paying to be stuck in the jam. This is not fair,” he said.
He added that the MRT would not solve every problem as issues such as adequate parking spots and shuttle services, among others, would need to be addressed to make the system work.
MMC-Gamuda KVMRT (PDP) Sdn Bhd project management department’s general manager Adil Putra Ahmad said the company was already accelerating work.
“We are working multiple shifts whenever we can, but we are bound by safety regulations set by the local authorities as well as the Malaysian Highway Authority.
“There will be congestion while work is being carried out but we have tried our best to minimise this,” he said.
The Sungai Buloh-Kajang line is expected to be completed by July 2017, but Adil said work would start to taper off from 2015.
He said the MRT would be able to accommodate the pace and scale of development projects in the area as the facility was planned for the future.
Once completed, the Sungai Buloh-Kajang line would serve a corridor with an estimated population of 1.2 million people. The line is expected to ferry 460,000 passengers a day.
Cheras-Kajang road system unable to cope with rapid housing growth