Press Statement from TRANSIT regarding the National Summit on Urban Public Transport (18 September 2008)

For Immediate Release

The Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit (TRANSIT) Klang Valley issues the attached statement regarding the recently completed National Summit on Urban Public Transport, sponsored by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute.

TRANSIT welcomes the opportunity for dialogue to improve the public transport sector. Our observations of the National Summit (as described in the statement attached) reflect our view that political will has been absent from the public transport sector – especially with the bus industry.

TRANSIT and delegates at the National Summit concur in the view that political will must be found to improve public transportation in this country. Investments are not necessarily going to lead to improvement without the proper regulation and understanding of public transportation.

TRANSIT appreciates the efforts of the media to highlight public transport issues. For further information please review our previous statement and do not hesitate to contact us at our official email address (klangvalley.transit@gmail.com).

You may also wish to contact advisors Ong BK and Moaz Yusuf Ahmad or Spokesperson Muhammad Zulkarnain Hamzah and Peter Sinniah.

Kind Regards

Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
on behalf of TRANSIT

Report on the National Summit on Urban Public Transport (18.9.2008)

By Ong BK and Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
On behalf of the Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit (TRANSIT), Klang Valley

The National Summit on Urban Public Transport was held by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) at The Gardens Hotel and Conference Centre on September 18, 2008 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.

The Conference firmed up the view of Civil Society that the current governing parties are the main stumbling block to public transport reform: The government simply lacks the political will to improve the messy public transport system comprehensively and effectively!

Retired Perak CPO Yuen Yuet Leng, who used to brave bullets to serve the government stood up at the final plenary to declare that he has voted for the Opposition in the March 8 General Elections because the current leaders are putting self interest above national interest.

Representatives from Public Transport Industry stakeholders such as Prasarana (National Infrastructure Company), RapidKL (Bus and LRT operator), Scomi (Bus and Monorail builder), DBKL (KL City Hall), Datuk Nadzmi Salleh (Director of Konsortium Transnasional) and others were all united to demand a unified public transport agency instead of the current 13 agencies which splintered the administration of public transports into hopelessness.

Transport Minister Ong Tee Kiat in his keynote address announced the setting up of a unified Public Transport Agency – but skepticism remains as to when and how this is going to start functioning. The original plans have been delayed by 6 months.

CVLB Director Markiman Kobiran expressed his concern that the National Public Transport Commission would simply become a 14th agency, adding to the layers of bureaucracy instead of reducing it.

TRANSIT advisor Moaz Yusuf Ahmad suggested in his presentation that public transport be reformed from the very top, with the Cabinet Committee being replaced by a Parliamentary Select Committee to increase the level of public participation. This proposal was supported by Datuk Micheal Yeoh, Director of Asli, but rejected immediately by CVLB Director Markiman.
Many delegates at the National Summit expressed their frustration because there had been numerous such conferences before to address the non-functioning public transport – all of which have yielded little benefits to the end-users, the passengers.

Public Transport users were represented among the participants – however, some NGOs including the Bus User’s Group (BUG) from Penang, Barrier-free Environment and Accessible Transport-KL (Beat-KL), the Centre for Transport, Development and the Environment, Malaysia (Cetdem) and newly formed TRANSIT, provided a concise and clear view from the perspective of the public transport users.

TRANSIT advisor Moaz Yusuf Ahmad originally planned to attend the conference as a delegate but was asked to join the Special Discussion on Urban Transport as a panelist. It was an excellent and positive opportunity for TRANSIT to share their views about public transportation in Malaysia
Fortunately, the perspective of the user was given more focus, especially thanks to questions from the users present at the question times. So it was a strategic success for the users to get organised-at long last!

Some interesting disclosures from the speakers included:

  • CVLB’s Markiman Kobiran disclosed that CVLB policy is to limit competition in the public transport sector – and so the introduction of RapidKL and RapidPenang were pushed by `interference’ from `higher-up’ powers.
  • Dr. Aizi of the Federal Territories Ministry disclosed public transport only has 16% ridership (800 000 passengers/day) in KL, despite billions of RM in investment in public transport – chiefly in capital intensive LRT – while the improvements to the buses (Intrakota and RapidKL) have not lasted.
  • Moaz Yusuf Ahmad, speaking for TRANSIT disclosed that KTM Komuter is operating with 1/3 (20 Electric Multiple Unit Trains) out of the original fleet (62 trains). At the same time, the Rawang-Seremban line has been extended to Serendah and soon to Tanjung Malim, while the Pelabuhan Klang-Sentul line will soon be extended to Batu Caves and potentially to Selayang. In the 10 years of KTM Komuter operations, passenger demand has increased by 3 times.
  • Moaz Yusuf Ahmad also discussed TRANSIT’s view of the proposed LRT lines, suggesting that the government consider building the Kota Damansara-Cheras Line to MRT capacity (30,000-50,000 passengers per direction per hour)
  • Uwe Arhens of Melewar Integrated Engineering outlined 3 simple steps in Public transport planning and design. We wonder why the policy makers are finding it hard to implement these simple steps. Mr. Ahrens complained that they have been experiencing difficulties to make appointment with the CEO of Prasarana (Shaipudin Shah Harun) who seems to be making the wrong purchases of buses and LRTs.
  • Dr Leong Siew Mun of DBKL admitted that DBKL has little power to intervene into public transport planning but gets most of the blame within the Klang Valley.
  • Dato Nadzmi expressed his view that public transport needed to be improved and the regulation of the government was hampering the operations of businesses.
  • CVLB disclosed that they have not started a registry of bad bus drivers -though they have one for bad taxi drivers, thus allowing bad bus drivers to hop from one company to another – often expecting the new company to pay the driver’s own summonses.
  • Dr Thilainathan compared transport data between KL, Singapore, and Hong Kong, which showed that in most cases, Hong Kong and Singapore had found ways to improve the mobility of their population with less use of private cars
  • Shaipudin Shah Harun, Prasarana CEO was lost for words when challenged why Rapid buses was slow to become disabled friendly. He could only said that it takes other factors to work together to deliver the service-but why Rapid must be the last one to start playing its part? That really rile the BEAT members and other supporters of universal access !
  • RapidKL’s Suffian repeated what the press has reported about RapidKL’s grand plan for the future.
  • Prof Sulik Suleiman disclosed that bus companies in Hong Kong are making money by the truckloads everyday-in hard cash. He stated that there is a way to create a regulated yet competitive public transport environment that allows consumers to benefit and operators to profit – without too much government “intervention” in the market.
  • Kanesan of SCOMI spoke about monorail technology and then expressed his feeling that the bus and taxi drivers were poorly treated in Malaysia – with low salaries, high costs and expectations, and all the blame for what is happening in the industry. He pointed out that in many cases, bus and taxi drivers were not welcome at public facilities – to the extent that there was nowhere for them to use the washroom.
  • Tan Sri Abdul Aziz who was a chair for a session candidly admitted that he too had been thru many of such conferences over a period of 30 years – but there had not been any movement in the right direction due to a lack of political will.
  • Prof Abdul Rahim said that Bus Rapid Transit only cost 7-10% compared to heavy rail. He proposed that mega projects and highways solutions should be on the way out in favour of leaner and more efficient and more environmentally-friendly buses.
  • Dr. Gue See Sew was another advocate for buses – and demanded that the government set proper and realistic targets.
  • Gurmit Singh of Cetdem expressed his suspicion that the government had not sorted out its priority whether to develop the car industry or to develop public transports.
  • R Nadeswaran (Citizen Nades) of the Sun candidly stated that the Public Transport sector is characterised by lawlessness…he also declared his lack of faith in the new Local Councils
  • EPSM disclosed that KL’s bus lanes had been turned into car parks.
  • Paul Selvaraj of FOMCA too supported buses.
  • Eddy Chen who chaired the last session suspect that the government has not decided whether to save PT sector from bad policies – thus causing Malaysians to abandon PT in favour of unsustainable private cars.
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4 thoughts on “Press Statement from TRANSIT regarding the National Summit on Urban Public Transport (18 September 2008)”

  1. My hypothesis is that the existing public transit infrastructure had not been delivered to the public the planned quality due to corruption, judging at the low number carriages on the LRT and low frequency of both LRT and Monorail. Surely Malaysian planners & engineers have done their home work in predicting capacity. Someone or group is getting rich while the public suffers.

    Accountability: What is the mechanism to allow an average person exercising his rights and be heard? For if there is a credible way for all the voices of the frustrated and underserved be heard, then there can be a stronger pressure towards improvement. Currently only certain groups who are internet savvy, and conversant in BM/English are able to write and communicate. How do we do this?

    KL is not the only place with transit issue: Johor, Penang, Kuching(especially), KK. Not local nor tourist friendly at all.

  2. Halo Alex,
    The public/users’ voice will be unlikely to be heard unless we get organised into a strong force-so then politicians will only ignore us at their own peril. Public transport users in Penang and KL have at long last started to organise ourselves-more are welcome to join in the movement for a people friendly public transports.

    If you lament the limited reach of these groups-consider the impact of a printed paper with 5000-10 000 circulation distributed to Public transport users in a city? (Pg’s PT users 50k, KL 800K) That had been done in Penang-and can be done in all relevant cities/part of cities in Malaysia. There is no law against such single issue publications!

    Dare to change,

    Ong BK

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