IT is peak hour at Jalan Masjid India and the sight is not pretty. Between 8am and 7pm, Kuala Lumpur’s charming landmark, famed for its textile and jewellery shops, take on an unattractive feel.
The vibrancy of the area spills into the little lanes that provide everything from Ubat Kuat Lelaki (aphrodisiac for men) to trendy baju kurungs. But, after a while, that charm is lost in all that traffic, and endless obstacles for pedestrians, and the air gets choked with smoke emitted from vehicles.
Even Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who visited Jalan Masjid India with Federal Territories Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin and Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Ahmad Fuad Ismail recently, had a feel of the chaos and wanted to see an end to the problem.
But, can this urban nightmare be solved? And more importantly, is a multi-storey car park the solution?
Fuad had recently revealed that the 13-storey building will also house a hawker and trade centre, multipurpose hall, office space an even a futsal arena. It is estimated to cost RM50mil.
He said the contract for the project on a 0.5ha land, located behind the Maytower Hotel and Wisma Shen (near Semua House) had already been tendered out and work was expected to begin soon.
The announcement has received mixed response from the business community with a majority against it.
“I don’t think they (DBKL) are looking at the big picture here. It’s not about lack of parking space - it’s about lack of proper management. The DBKL should re-look at the entire way the traffic is managed here,’’ said trader Abdul Kadir.
“Traffic is at its worst here during the weekends when various entry and exit points are cordoned off to prevent cars from coming into the area - and that’s what causing the problem,’’ Abdul Kadir said.
When asked to comment on the reason for the congestion, Abdul Kadir said that Jalan Masjid India would be free of congestion if people would stop double-parking. “People must change their attitude and stop being selfish,’’ he said.
Al Monteiro who runs the Urban Goddess boutique in Semua House said: “Congestion has always been synonymous with Jalan Masjid India especially during the weekends when the place becomes chaotic with the night markets and when Sogo (department store) has its sale,’’ she said.
“I think that there is a need to come up with a proper traffic management system especially during the weekends,’’ she said.
StarMetro decided to check out the parking facilities in the area and discovered that the area does not lack parking bays.
Take Semua House for instance. The 21-storey building has four floors dedicated as a car park with each floor having 100 parking bays.
Yet, according to a spokesman from Semua House management office, only 60% of the bays are utilised during weekdays.
According to a parking attendant operating the Rotar Vista Sdn Bhd’s open parking lot near Wisma Shen - which has been earmarked for the multi-storey car park project - the bays are hardly ever full, even at peak time.
“I can’t imagine how they are going to fill the bays when the building is ready,’’ said the attendant who did not wish to reveal his identity. It’s people’s attitude that needs changing,’’ he said.
In fact, apart from Semua House, there were many other buildings in the area like Plaza City One, Maytower Hotel, Noble Hotel, and many other buildings with ample parking bays.
Meanwhile the Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit in Klang Valley (Transit) adviser Moaz Yusof Ahmad believes that the best solution to stop congestion is to move people to start taking public transport and encourage walking.
“We need to get people to stop driving into the city,’’ said Moaz.
More enforcement is needed to reduce the number of cars blocking intersections and occupying yellow boxes.
More bus ways must be created to speed up public transport. Transit said that contra-flow bus lanes on major one-way roads such as Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Raja Laut would help public transport flow faster.
Hence for the long run, most experts believe that it would be a much better plan to discourage people from driving into the city by building car parks in the fringe of the city and encourage people to take public transport to work.