The cost of congestion

  • Business
  • Saturday, 01 Jun 2013

WHEN Marylene had her first baby, she continued working. When she had her second baby, she decided to quit the working world. Marylene’s office is in Petaling Jaya and her home is in Bukit Antarabangsa, Kuala Lumpur.

“I love my job. But the traffic congestion was getting unbearable,” she says.

Marylene took a few months off work. Armed with a degree in economics and with her banking experience, she decided to seek work based on two criteria – distance from home and working hours.

She found an 8am to 4pm research job about 10 minutes’ drive from home.

In her search for new office space for her clients, YY Lau of YY Property Solutions says she is coming across more women turning away from the career they are trained for, or giving up work altogether, because they are unable to juggle work commitments and home life.

It is under this scenario that building owners are considering adding a child care centre within their premises.

“2012 was a dragon year which naturally saw a baby boom. Working mothers are having a hard time getting help to look after their babies. Hence, the trend today among building owners is to have a child-care centre within their premises which they outsource to an operator,” says Lau, adding that 1 First Avenue in Bandar Utama has one. Jaya33 in Section 13, and Pinnacle in Sunway are planning to have this facility. These office buildings are located in Petaling Jaya.

She says the main concern among companies today is traffic congestion. There used to be a time when this was an issue confined to Kuala Lumpur but it has since spread to other parts of the Klang Valley.

Where construction of the mass rapid transit (MRT) has started, lanes are being squeezed, exacerbating the situation. The Sungai Buloh-Kajang line, the first MRT line, is scheduled for completion by June 2017.

“Between now and completion of the MRT line, it may be necessary for companies to consider flexi-hours, staggered working hours or working from home,” says YY.

It is against this backdrop that companies are leaving the city to relocate in fringe and decentralised areas. “The decentralised areas appear to be doing better than the central business district (CBD) area. Fringe areas like KL Sentral is a workable solution. British Petroleum moved from KLCC area to KL Sentral,” she adds.

Lau divides the office market into four broad categories – CBD, KL fringe, decentralised areas and Cyberjaya/Putrajaya. Decentralised areas include Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam and Klang while KL fringe areas include locations like KL Sentral, Mid Valley and Gardens, Damansara Heights and Bangsar South.

Average rates for decentralised and fringe areas are between RM4.50 and RM5.50 per sq ft while grade A buildings in the city average between RM7 and RM9 per sq ft.

Lau says the move to decentralised areas started with IBM and KPMG several years ago. The most recent one was global consultancy group Accenture, which moved from KLCC to the Mid Valley locality. Wong & Partners, which is part of Baker & McKinsey international law firm, is in KL Sentral while British Telecom has expanded operations in Bangsar South.

Lau says these movements indicate the appeal of non-city locations which are close to transport links. Both Mid Valley and Bangsar South have link bridges connecting rail transportation. KL Sentral is an interchange station.

“The mindset has changed,” Lau says. – By Thean Lee Cheng

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