PUBLIC buses were once a popular mode of transportation, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, but, over the years, many in the city have switched to commuting via personal vehicles such as cars.
The growing number of personal vehicles on the road has added to the traffic woes and the government has embarked on various measures to encourage commuters to switch to public transportation.
StarMetro spoke to Urban Public Transport National Key Results Area (NKRA) and Greater Kuala Lumpur / Klang Valley National Key Economic Area (NKEA) director Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah to find out more about these measures.
He said the total modal share of the use of public transport, which includes buses and rail such as LRT and KTM Komuter, was 12% in 2010 but had increased to 21% by the end of 2013.
“The ridership numbers are encouraging and besides the MRT and LRT extension, measures are being taken to increase ridership via other modes of transportation,” he said.
Mohd Azharuddin said by 2020, the government planned to achieve some 40% ridership on public transport, on its way to emulating countries with large public transport ridership such as Hong Kong at 70%, London at 50% and Singapore at 60%.
Among the plans are the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Bus Expressway Transit (BET), Centralised Taxi Service System (CTSS), Performance Monitoring hub System (PMhS), Park n Ride, Integrated Transport Terminal (ITT) as well as the Digital Journey Planner.
He also said there were plans to increase the number of bus drivers in the city, with about 500 needed to overcome the shortage.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
A 34km Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route has been planned between Pasar Seni, Kuala Lumpur, and Klang.
This bus system is designed for a high volume of passengers and will operate similar to the mass transit system.
The dedicated bus lane would pass the Federal Highway and is estimated to cost RM1bil.
Mohd Azharuddin said the project had been discussed with the Public Works Department (JKR) and Prasarana Malaysia Bhd but was still in the planning stages.
He added that the main issue facing the project was funding.
“The financing structure is important and we are looking at ways to build it with minimum government funding.
“We have spoken to JKR and the local authorities and they are positive about the idea.
“However, we have not received any approvals and are still working out the financial aspect,” he said.
The frequency of BRT was estimated to be less than a minute at each station and the target daily ridership is approximately 600,000 commuters.
There would be 25 stops on the route that will pass through the jurisdictions of Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Petaling Jaya City Council, Shah Alam City Council, Subang Jaya Municipal Council and Klang Municipal Council.
The project would benefit some 1.5mil people living along the route and offer more public transport options for Klang Valley residents.
Besides the exclusive bus lanes, other interesting features of BRT include the pre-boarding payment system and single system operator.
Mohd Azharuddin said the BRT system would operate with a common ticketing system used by multiple bus operators.
“Cars will not be able to enter the BRT lane.
“This route has a high travel demand and we want to ease congestion on the Federal Highway.
“There will still be three car lanes on both sides of the highway, but we will use the median, and maybe narrow some of the existing lanes.
“We need rail systems but we also need buses as they are a much cheaper form of public transportation.
“When buses are convenient and safe, commuters will use it.
“We are working with Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and Prasarana on how we could make the plan a reality as soon as possible.
“We view this as a good project for the public and have seen how it is succesful in cities such as Guangzhou, China, and Bogota, Colombia,” he said.
Centralised Taxi Service System (CTSS)
The Centralised Taxi Service System (CTSS) has been proposed to enhance the enforcement and monitoring capabilities of taxi regulators.
Enforcement can then be carried out via an onboard monitoring system that will also track the taxi driver’s routes and performance. This system will establish an integrated call centre to optimise driver deployment and gather better public feedback.
The system will also address some of the current problems such as the lack of a performance monitoring mechanism and lack of physical enforcement capacity.
“This system will be able to tell if the drivers are overcharging as well as whether they are spending enough time on the road ferrying passengers,” said Mohd Azharuddin.
Performance Monitoring Hub System (PMhS)
The Performance Monitoring hub System (PMhS) will help monitor the services offered by bus operators and will track some 1,500 buses from eleven major bus operators in the Klang Valley.
“With this system, we get to monitor details such as the location of each bus and its travelling speed.
“This will give the passengers an assurance that the buses are well-monitored.” Mohd Azharuddin said.
Bus driver shortage
Mohd Azharuddin agreed that feeder buses must be excellent, comfortable, reliable and on time.
However, he said the industry faced a shortage of about 500 drivers.
He added that Prasarana had taken measures to solve the problem by hiring former army personnel and women drivers, but the demand had still not been met.
“We are looking at structural issues such as remuneration of the bus drivers.
“We do not even want to call them bus drivers, instead we want to call them bus captains.
“Their welfare must be looked into as being a bus driver is a tough job,” he said.
He added there were arguments that if the profession was to be seen as respectable, salaries must be increased.
“This is a technical job and you need skills.
“It also involves the passengers’ safety and good customer service and we are looking at ways to manage the costs.
“At the moment, the bus drivers take home about RM2,200 compared to express bus drivers, who could take home more than RM3,000, as that sector is more market driven,” he said.
Stage bus network
Mohd Azharuddin said some bus stops did not have route maps because most private bus companies focused on busy routes.
“There are eight corridors to Kuala Lumpur and these are the most profitable, hence the private bus companies want to pick up passengers in those areas.
“However, Prasarana has been told by the government to also serve routes that are less profitable.
“SPAD divided the routes and created a more systematic network. With enforcement in place, these buses will be reaching out to more routes.
“We are in talks with the private operators and we may launch the network in the third quarter of this year,” he said.
Park n Ride
Meanwhile, Park n Ride facilities are on track to accommodate the existing rail lines as well as the extensions.
Currently, there are more than 5,000 parking bays in the stations of the LRT and KTM rail lines and this would increase to 9,000 by 2017.
Among the new Park n Ride facilities at LRT stations are Gombak (1060 bays), Sungai Besi (214 bays), Bandar Tasik Selatan (1024 bays), Ampang (1140 bays) and Asia Jaya (607 bays).
New parking facilities are also available at KTM Kajang, Batu Tiga, Padang Jawa, Kepong, Bangi, Batang Benar, Salak Selatan, Petaling, Seremban, Shah Alam and Padang Jawa.
There would be more such facilities at the LRT extension line stations of Kelana Jaya, Express Rail Link (ERL) at Salak Tinggi and KTM at Klang, Pelabuhan Klang, Rawang and Nilai.
“We have more than 5,000 parking bays at the LRT and KTM Komuter stations with minimal parking charges at a maximum of RM4 a day,” he said.
Integrated Transport Terminal (ITT)
There has been progress on the initiative to decongest the central business district in the city with the Integrated Transport Terminal (ITT). Through the Bandar Tasik Selatan ITT, 500 south-bound buses have been diverted from the city centre, helping to free the city routes.
Pudu Sentral welcomes some 1,000 buses daily and has been refurbished and re-designated for inter-urban use. The Gombak ITT, set to commence in 2016, will serve as terminal for eastbound buses, further easing the traffic in the central business district.
“The Gombak ITT will be connected to the Kelana Jaya LRT line and this will help to integrate the public facilities,” said Mohd Azharuddin.
The Journey Planner would be in the form of an application that will help to integrate existing static information, online maps and the Performance Monitoring hub System (PMhS) to provide real-time data to commuters.
“We will work with app providers to create such journey apps that will help the public plan their public transport routes,” he said.
Mohd Azharuddin also discussed some of the successes of the Urban Public Transport NKRA achievements, including the free Go-KL City Bus service used by 35,000 people daily.
He said the purple line, from Pasar Seni to Bukit Bintang, and the green line which covered KLCC and Bukit Bintang began operations in Aug 2012.
Some 16 buses are deployed daily with a five-minute waiting time during peak hours and 10 minutes during non-peak hours.
Two new lines, red and blue, started operations in May last year, covering KL Sentral-Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Medan Mara-Bukit Bintang, respectively.
The ridership of the two new lines is around 18,000 daily and the waiting time is just five minutes during peak hours.
He added that 1,544 bus stops had also been refurbished in 12 local authorities in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
Mohd Azharuddin also said the first two Hentian Akhir Bandar (HAB), which integrated different bus and rail services, in Pasar Seni since August 2012 and in Wira Damai, Selayang since Nov last year, had proved succesful and more such stops were in the pipeline.
The Bus Expressway Transit had also received a lot of positive feedback from the public.
“These routes will provide direct connectivity between two points and reduce travelling time due to not stopping at multiple bus stops,” said Mohd Azharuddin.
Among the BET routes are Kota Damansara-Pasar Seni, Bandar Sg Long-Pasar Seni, Subang Mewah-Pasar Seni, Taman Sri Muda-Pasar Seni, Bandar Tasik Puteri-Medan Pasar, Bukit Beruntung-Pasar Seni, Sri Nilam-Munshi Abdullah, Semenyih Sentral-Pasar Seni and Rawang-Pasar Seni.
He added that new train cars on KTM Komuter — 38 six-car trains — and the Kelana Jaya LRT line — 35 four-car trains in 2010 — had improved efficiency drastically with shorter wait-times experienced by commuters.
Other achievements under the NKRA inclue the The MRT Line 1 from Sungai Buloh to Kajang with 31 stations, estimated to be completed by July 2017 and Phase 1 of the Ampang LRT line extension, which is expected to be completed by March next year. The extension of the Kelana Jaya LRT lin to Putra Heights is expected to be completed in June next year.
Aside from buses and trains, Mohd Azharuddin said 875 new Proton Exora taxis had been launched under the Teksi 1Malaysia scheme (TEKS1M) in 2013 and these taxis are benchmarked against the ASEAN best-in-class standards.