Moving Ipoh forward

Slow journey: Thousands head to Ipoh on the weekends, adding to the traffic congestion in the city centre. — RONNIE CHIN/The Star

The Ipoh City Council (MBI) has drawn up several plans to improve its public transportation system with a view to reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion in the city centre.

Ipoh mayor Datuk Rumaizi Baharin recently said that a private company had been contracted to study whether an Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) system would be better suited for the city, compared to the previously mooted Light Rail Transit (LRT) system.

The ART is a rail-less guided transport system which uses kinetic and electric energy.

Those who spoke to StarMetro feel that either one of the rail transit systems would have a positive impact on the city and its people.

ALSO READ: Rail concern in Ipoh

Ahmad Amal Musyrif Ismail, 22, a baker, believes that schoolchildren would benefit the most if the ART system gets the green light.

“It would be easier for them to go to school without getting caught in traffic congestion.

“Perhaps the company in charge would consider building the stations near schools or places with a lot of offices,” he said.

“I would also like to suggest a special monthly card similar to the Touch ‘n Go be issued for the services,” he added.

Ahmad Amal said the ART stations should be built outside the city centre.

ALSO READ: City council exploring autonomous rail option for Ipoh

“Areas like Bandar Sunway, Meru Raya, Manjoi and Tanjung Rambutan are away from the city centre and should have such stations as it would make it easier for residents to go around.

“The city centre is already packed with ehailing vehicles, so the focus should be on places at the fringes of the city or between the Kinta and Batu Gajah areas,” he said.

“While we do have Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd train services connecting Ipoh and Batu Gajah, I don’t think there is any harm having more links between the two areas as the ART system would complement the existing train services,” he said.

Ahmad Amal said he relied on ehailing vehicles to get to work.

“I spend about RM200 a month on ehailing taxis. I think if Ipoh has either the LRT or ART system, I could spend less on public transportation,” he added.

ALSO READ: Ipoh LRT part of draft plan but not confirmed yet, says mayor

In August, Rumaizi said he believed that the ART system would be more suited for the city centre between the Old Town and New Town areas.

He said the system would meet the city council’s goal to transform Ipoh into a low-carbon city.

He said such a project would require the interest and participation of a private firm or the Federal Government.

The ART system is similar to the Iskandar Malaysia Bus Rapid Transit system in Johor Baru.

Ipoh currently has public transportation services like buses, ehailing cabs and metered taxis.

Last November, StarMetro reported that Ipoh folk were split on the LRT system, which was being mulled and had been included in the Ipoh City Local Plan Draft 2035.

While some believed that the LRT system would help to reduce traffic congestion and was better for the environment, others said such a project would be costly and not suitable for Ipoh.

Constance Chi Jian Yi, 27, said she believed that the ART system would be great for both tourists and residents in Ipoh.

“It would be more convenient for them to get around.

“Lots of students and the elderly don’t have their own vehicles, so having such a system in the city would be great, especially for those living far away from the city,” said Chi.

“However, I also feel that Ipoh may be too small in terms of population and land mass so I’m not sure if the system could be used to its full potential, given that some may not even need the system,” she said, adding that the ART system should be put in places like Station 18, Bercham, Tambun and Chemor instead.

Chi, who moved to Bangi, Selangor, a few years ago, said the last time she used public transportation in Ipoh was back in 2010.

“As soon as I got my driving licence, I started driving and stopped using public transport.”

However, since she was often back to Ipoh to visit her parents, she said she would be keen on using the ART system if it was built.

An accountant who wished to be known only as Tina, 35, said she hoped that the development of the ART system would not impact people in the city.

“In the Klang Valley, there have been complaints about the LRT stations being built near residential areas, causing noise pollution.

“Ipoh is already congested during weekends and the roads here are narrower compared to Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, so it could be an issue if the ART stations are to be built near the shops,” she said.

“Construction work may take time and it could also impact businesses.

“Perhaps, it would be better to build the ART around Ipoh instead of in the middle of the city.

“It may be enough to just have more bicycle lanes and enhance the existing public transportation system by ensuring that buses arrive according to schedule,” she added.

Meanwhile, a trader who gave his name as Alex, said he preferred to have the LRT rather than the ART.

“The roads in Ipoh are not as wide as those in Kuala Lumpur or Johor Baru.

“I think adding the ART on the road will just cause more traffic congestion,” he said.

“I don’t think that the number of cars on the road will decrease even with the ART system,” he said.

“I think the LRT would be better since it has its own platform. Perhaps it can be built between the buildings or just somewhere outside the Old and New Towns,” he added.

Rumaizi said the LRT project was not shelved even with the ongoing study on the ART system.

“While both are not confirmed projects, they are still part of the local draft plan that we are drawing up for the future.

“Planning is important so that we don’t have to do land acquisition later.

“By failing to devise a proper plan, it may cost us more if we were to proceed with the project,” he said, adding that the study on the ART was expected to be completed by next January.

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