Public transport ridership goes up


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KUALA LUMPUR: May was a great month for public transport in the country as the combined train and bus ridership in Klang Valley exceeded one million a day.

The latest ridership figures released by Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, the parent of Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd and Rapid Bus Sdn Bhd, show that more than a million journeys were made using the LRT, MRT and monorail in the Klang Valley that month, the highest ever.

Surprisingly, even bus journeys in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kuantan also showed significant increases (see table).

On May 29, Rapid Rail recorded its highest ever rail usage when 1,004,591 journeys were performed using its train network alone, marking a new high since its founding.

The breakdown of ridership shows the Kelana Jaya LRT is still leading as the most-used urban rail line, with 287,102 journeys, followed by the Kajang MRT (274,302), the Ampang/Sri Petaling LRT (224,184), the Putrajaya MRT (157,767) and the KL Monorail (61,236).

According to Rapid Rail, this figure is 35% higher than the corresponding period in 2023, which had a total of 739,818 journeys across its network.

“We are proud to achieve this figure six months earlier than our target, and it shows the warm support from city dwellers for our services,” said Rapid Rail CEO Amir Hamdan when contacted.

He said the increase is the result of various incremental improvements, such as increasing train frequencies on the Kelana Jaya and Kajang lines, the top two urban rail lines in the country.

Other improvements, not in any particular order, include Rapid Rail’s embrace of more proactive maintenance regimes, where technicians don’t wait for breakdowns but take a more active role in monitoring the condition of machinery before they reach their breaking point.

“There is also more customer service training for frontliners,” he said, adding that there is also a lot of first-time users on weekends nowadays.

“We get requests from users on how to reach particular spots, and in this regard, we teach our frontliners how to respond,” said Amir.

Ridership was also boosted by the opening of new attractions along the alignment, such as the Tun Razak Exchange, as well as the hosting of large events like the KL Book Fest at Kuala Lumpur’s World Trade Centre as well as Bukit Bintang, which saw huge groups going there by train.

Other enhancements that contributed to a better commuting experience include improvements to Rapid’s digital “journey planner”, which now also provides information about KTM Komuter (which is not operated by Rapid Rail) to help commuters have an integrated experience.

For regular user Gaby Jeremiah, 22, the Kajang MRT generally delivers a good experience, with frequent trains making it easy for her to plan her travels to the office.

“Additionally, the station is conveniently connected to the office building, allowing for a comfortable walk,” she said.

However, she believes improvements can be made to the women-only coach.

“On almost every ride, I would see at least one man standing in the women’s coach.

“It would take a brave woman to tell him to move to the general coach, but often, men ignore the women and pretend they didn’t hear anything.

“While it may seem like a small issue to some, it does threaten the safety of women who have intentionally chosen the women’s coach to avoid potential harassment.

“Additionally, there should be better traffic control especially during peak hours when people are packed shoulder to shoulder or rushing into the MRT. Standing like packed sardines can be potentially dangerous and guards should be present to manage the human flow,” Jeremiah added.

Industry observers said Prasarana still has a lot of work to do before ridership becomes consistently high, or even higher, when the Shah Alam line (LRT3) opens by the middle of 2025.

Ong Dee Keat, head of rail operations department and simulation expert at Rail Systems Engineering Sdn Bhd, said acceptance of public transport is improving in the face of the fuel subsidy rationalisation and spurred by growing traffic congestion.

“Riding on the increasing ridership trend, we need to put in efficient scheduling of train services to further improve passenger experience.

“From conception stage, scheduling can contribute to the overall decision-making process for policymakers and the government. It will be able to determine the number of train services that is required to satisfy the passenger demand forecast (normally spanning over 30 years).

“This, in turn, justifies the cost and benefits of a new line while developing connectivity based on the choice of alignment and location of intermediate and interchange stations.

“When the schedules of trains are planned in a comprehensive, inclusive and holistic manner, it can bring a multiplier effect to the overall public transport system, thanks to the improved connections, connectivity and confidence in the train service delivery.

“A good example is when a passenger arrives at an interchange station, the next connecting train will arrive within minutes,” said Ong. “A good connection enables a short waiting time and seamless changeover to connecting trains (if possible, at adjacent platforms). However, without regular train services, good connections will never happen.”

Ong further stressed that good connections within railways will have a multiplier effect on the overall public transportation system.

“This is because other modes of transport, for example buses, will also be able to reap the benefits of an increase in ridership when they connect to the train station. More people are brought closer to public transport as the first- and last-mile connectivity is further enhanced.

“In addition, this also retains buses as the feeder system – ferrying passengers to and from the train stations – since a train’s carrying capacity is higher than a bus,” he added.

Wan Md Hazlin Agyl Wan Hassan, a former planning official at the now-defunct Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), said more players need to play their role, especially local authorities, as they have great influence over things like walkability and accessibility to train stations.

“Improving the connectivity to stations, supported by other infrastructure like walkways and parking, will definitely increase ridership.

“Bus services’ punctuality is important too, which means we need to start working on protecting our buses from normal traffic to avoid them being stuck in traffic. The whole idea is to make public transport attractive and also make the first-and-last mile gap as seamless as possible,” he said.

“It is encouraging to see ridership on an uptrend for the past few months, and we expect May’s all-time high to be topped when the government actually removes broad-based subsidies for RON95.

“In the meantime, rail operators – including KTMB and ERL – must work hard to ensure that they are ready at all fronts, from engineering and maintenance to scheduling and customer service, so that all parts of the system work well in a unified manner,” added Wan Agyl.

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