PETALING JAYA: Most Malaysians who drive to work in Kuala Lumpur commute by themselves, a survey has found.
The survey by the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS) found that 87.3% of Malaysians in the Klang Valley are alone in their vehicles, one of the highest single driver commuter rates in the world.
The survey found that around 11.6% travel with one passenger on board whilst only 0.9% travel with two other passengers on board.
It said that e-hailing drivers and their passengers were excluded from the survey.
Close to 5,000 vehicles were surveyed from Oct 23 to 25 across different parts of the Klang Valley, between 8am and 9.10am.
The sample respondents were drivers who were driving towards the Central Business District (CBD) on a highway that was tolled.
Cent-GPS said this was to ensure they were financially committed to driving to work and signified that they would rather pay toll and the cost of fuel than the charges for public transport.
The researchers were stationed in Ampang, Seri Kembangan, Sungai Buloh and Petaling Jaya, at locations near a toll, and linked residential areas and places of work.
“In our qualitative studies, it is clear from our respondents that many prefer to drive alone because of comfort.
“They would rather spend the morning drive alone to gather their thoughts, listen to their favourite podcasts or even favourite music.
“They would prefer to do this without having to layan (interact) with a colleague passenger, ” Cent-GPS said in a press release Monday (Nov 4).
The other reason given by these drivers was that public transport still remained difficult, with some complaining that the cost of parking at an LRT or MRT station was the same as parking at work.
A few others complained that when they did arrange for carpooling arrangements, their colleagues would often wake up late, making the driver late for work as well.
According to Cent-GPS, in 2018 the United States was found to have a nationwide average single driver commuter rate of 66% whilst the other 34% carpooled.
In Spain, around 56% of workers commute alone by driving whilst the other 44% carpooled or took public transport.
In Belgium, the number of single driver commuters has been declining at a rate of 5% a year to what is now believed to be only around 30% of single driver commuters.
“From our literature review, however, the biggest correlation we find with high levels of single driver commuters is the cost of fuel and toll.
“Frankly, the fairly affordable cost of fuel and toll in Malaysia is not a big enough incentive to urge people to seek a carpooling or public transportation option.
“The cost of fuel and sitting through traffic is just not as big as the cost of having to sit and listen to your colleague complain about the boss.
“Yet, if the government were to increase the cost of toll and fuel, the most affected would be the B40 group, making driving to work alone a luxury afforded by the rich, ” said Cent-GPS.
The group, however, urged policy-makers not to pursue the plight of eradicating tolls or continuing fuel subsidies.
“Even the rhetoric of reducing tolls implies that tolls serve a back-stepping function in our society. This is not true. Tolls need to be seen as a function in a developing country that can begin to regulate and reduce the number of cars on the road.
“As we head into a decade where climate change will determine our livelihoods, these measures, albeit painful and unpopular, need to be taken for the greater good, for the cleanliness of our children’s future.
"Traffic accidents have also been on the rise since 2008, ” it said.
The government is aiming to achieve 40% of public transportation usage by 2030, with only 20% of Malaysians using public transport currently.
According to market research agency Nielsen, 93% of Malaysian households in 2014 owned a car, the third highest rate of car ownership in the world.