The dreadful traffic jams

  • Business
  • Saturday, 08 Mar 2014

They are something we dislike but cannot do anything about

WHAT do you dislike most in your daily life? For me, I dislike going to bed late, I dislike interruption during meeting, and I dislike not having enough time to exercise.

Each of us will have a different list of “dislikes.” However, I am sure there is one thing that all of us dislike yet most of us would have to do it twice a day, that is spending one to four hours per day, and at least five days a week.

You may have guessed right... It’s the traffic jam that we go through every day especially in the cities. When we think about all the “dislikes”, we usually look for options to reduce the occurrence of such events. Unfortunately, traffic jams are something unavoidable, and we need to deal with them almost every day.

Newly-released data by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) showed that the total number of vehicles sold last year was 655,793, an increase of 4.5% compared with 2012. It was the fourth consecutive year that car sales had exceeded MAA’s forecast of 600,000 units. MAA expects the volume to reach 670,000 in 2014.

What a notable figure it is. The growth of car sales is higher than our country’s population growth of about 1.5% every year. Imagine over 600,000 cars added to existing roads every year. Our road expansion will never be able to keep up with the growth of cars. We can only expand most of the roads in peripheral areas only. However, people will still need to travel on the main roads towards the city and that is where traffic begins to build up.

Currently, our public transportation system has not been able to catch up with development. About 88% of the population are dependent on private vehicles and 12% on public transport. As a result, private vehicles become an important transport mode and traffic jams have become a thorn in urban living. Our “dislike” task is still sticking along whenever we travel.

The heavy traffic jams are costing the nation a huge price in terms of efficiency and productivity to our national economy. To put it in perspective, imagine each of us wasting an average of two hours in traffic jams every day, 100,000 people will be wasting 200,000 hours or 8,333 days, equivalent to 22.8 years. If one million people were to be stuck in traffic jams for two hours per day, that would be 2 million hours wasted, which is 83,333 hours or 228 years. If we further divide this into 8 working hours per day, it equals to the wastage of 10,416 man-days, solely due to an average of two hours traffic jam per day.

That is how much time we are wasting on the road every day depending on the number of vehicles and people trapped in the jams. The situation will become worse as the number of vehicles increase.

To march towards KL’s vision of becoming a world-class city and the goal of growing the Klang Valley population from 6 million to 10 million by 2020, the above is the price we cannot afford to pay. It is critical for the relevant parties to put in more effort to improve and expand our public transportation system.

It is a good initiative that we have started working on the MRT system in the Klang Valley in recent years. However, there is still a lot of catch-up to do. Other considerations include adding more MRT lines other than the proposed three, and to develop a comprehensive and connected public transport system such as using mini buses, executive buses and others, for people to travel by public transport without having to depend on private vehicles.

In many cities around the world, they even offer free public transport to reduce traffic jam. For example, there is free tram service in inner Melbourne, Australia, and free hop-on-hop-off bus trolleys along the 2km to 3km main pedestrian street mall in Denver, US.

According to reports, the sales of passenger vehicles in our country reached RM74.85bil in 2012. Ten years later, the value may be depreciated to only 10% or RM748.5mil based on car insurance or accounting practice of 10% to 20% annual depreciation.

The amount of the above car sales alone is sufficient to build three MRT lines similar to the size of the Sg Buloh-Kajang line, in which the cost is estimated to be in the region of RM23bil. If only we have a magic formula to reduce half of the purchase, and re-channel ten years of this sales amount to build public transportation system, we will have sufficient MRT networks for many generations to come. After all, the London underground system has been in existence for more than 100 years.

We understand that life is not a bed of roses. However, we hope not to sit on the thorns of roses every day. To achieve our dream of becoming a world-class city and enjoy the ease of mobility, we need to have a more aggressive plan for our public transportation system, and the right time is now.


FIABCI Asia-Pacific Regional Secretariat chairman Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email

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