MRT ridership picking up

Pics for story on publics using MRT service. AZMAN GHANI/ The Star

PETALING JAYA: Just two years after its full opening, the ridership for the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) MRT line is about to surpass that of the 23-year-old Ampang LRT line.

Latest ridership data from Prasarana Malaysia Bhd – the operator of the MRT and LRT network in Klang Valley – showed that in August, the MRT recorded an average of 208,000 riders each working day.

As a comparison, the Ampang LRT Line in July averaged 209,000 users on any given working day.

This is significant considering that the Ampang line opened in December 1996 while the MRT is only two years old. The Kelana Jaya LRT line remains the most used, averaging 326,000 users for each weekday in July.

Combined with the Sri Petaling line to form what was formerly known as the STAR Line, the Ampang line has 36 stations in total while the SBK line’s has 31 stations.

“The latest ridership data validates the decision to align the SBK MRT line the way it is.

“This proves that the line did indeed serve a previously underserved corridor stretching from Sungai Buloh in the north to Kajang in the south, ” said Datuk Seri Azmi Aziz, the former chief development officer at the (now) defunct Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), which was actively involved in putting together the alignment.

Azmi is currently the chief executive officer at YTL Construction’s rail division while SPAD has been replaced by Land Public Transport Agency (Apad).

The introduction of the RM100 monthly pass for unlimited usage of Prasarana-operated trains and buses last December has also spurred usage among Malaysians although this is most likely limited to those already regularly using such services.

Occasionally criticised as being “too lavish”, the MRT ridership is also expected to increase over the next two years as more developers connect their projects to the network.

For example, the Majestic Maxim project in Cheras is already building a dedicated walkway to the Taman Connaught station while the upcoming Pavilion Damansara Heights is also expected to be seamlessly connected with the Pusat Bandar Damansara station.

Ridership is also set to go up on the SBK Line as existing development such as Sunway Velocity in Cheras, among many others, get filled up with tenants as well as when its interchanges with the Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya (SSP) MRT line - also known as the MRT 2 - and the LRT 3, come on.

Both the SSP MRT line and the LRT 3 are currently under construction.

In April, the Cyberjaya City Centre had signed a MoU which allows for a MRT station and related structures of the SSP line to be built on land owned by its developer Cyberview Sdn Bhd without the need for land acquisition.

This co-existence between a land owner and public infrastructure benefits both parties by reducing the overall cost of the MRT project while Cyberjaya City Centre will enjoy seamless integration with a modern and reliable public transport system.

Other than being sited in the right catchment, the SBK line’s encouraging ridership is also because a dedicated network of feeder buses supports it.

During planning, then SPAD, MRT Corp (asset owner), and Prasarana had worked together to come up with the optimal solution for Klang Valley’s cluttered corridor, which sometimes make it difficult for normal buses to negotiate due to extremely tight corners and narrow roads.

“It was not perfect initially but so far, things have evolved to a rather good level of collaboration between local authorities, the regulator, asset owner and operator, ” said Yuslizar Daud, former head of SPAD’s rail division.

“Many lessons were learned in the course of the last two years and these will be incorporated as they plan for the next fleet of feeder buses to support the upcoming SPP line that is expected to be ready by July 2022.

“All these hard-earned lessons in the planning, implementation and operations in the course of the last three years have set a good foundation for the future as the rail network is planned and built, ” he said.

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