Ong Tee Keat takes the bus

Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat, who is also the head of Urban Public Transport for the Prime Minister’s Key Result Area of Public Transport, took the bus yesterday.

Yes, we are shocked too.

You can read all about his short trip from Taman Midah to Taman Maluri in the article and blog posting below.

Public transport still unpopular (The Star)
6 October 2009

[TRANSIT: What a headline!]KUALA LUMPUR: The Transport Minister wants more Klang Valley folk to use public transport but recognises that services first need to be improved.

Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said he was willing to hear the concerns of consumers as well as players in the public transportation sector.

Currently, only 16% of the Klang Valley’s population uses public transport and the Government would like to increase this figure to 25%.

[TRANSIT: Lowered expectations. Three years ago the target was 40%…and still there are no details about what this percentage actually means.]

Pleasant surprise: A bus commuter greeting Ong during his visit to the Taman Maluri bus station in Cheras yesterday. — Picture courtesy of Nanyang
Pleasant surprise: A bus commuter greeting Ong during his visit to the Taman Maluri bus station in Cheras yesterday. — Picture courtesy of Nanyang

Ong said that among the main complaints were irregular service in certain areas, lack of service during non-peak hours, vehicle breakdown and poor maintenance of bus terminals and bus stops. [TRANSIT: We could have told you that. Wait, we did. Repeatedly.]

He added that he would also look at having unpopular residential roads being properly serviced by public transport. [TRANSIT: In this case, ‘unpopular’ means that these roads are not well-served because the companies do not want to operate services there]

Ong, the Urban Public Transport panel head, said it was on his agenda to meet with not only public bus operators but also representatives of other modes of public transport such as the Light Rail Transit and KTM Komuter. [TRANSIT: How about us? Shouldn’t TRANSIT be in the Urban Public Transport panel?]

On bus companies complaining of unfair pricing compared to fares set by the Government for RapidKL buses, Ong said he would gather feedback. [TRANSIT: Enough with the feedback already. Time to take action.]

“We are here not just to promote only one company’s interest but also to look into national concerns. [TRANSIT: Then have RapidKL as the main operator and contract out services using the other bus companies]

“If we want to allow competition, then it should be on a level playing field but not at the expense of the public,” he said during a fact-finding walkabout at the Taman Maluri bus station in Cheras yesterday. [TRANSIT: He always says the nicest things]

Ong also pointed out that his ministry was not the only one with the power and jurisdiction over public transport.

The Transport Ministry is not the licensing agency for bus services nor is it responsible for the recent fare hike.

On whether the ministry might provide subsidies to encourage the use of public transport, he said: “Let us not be obsessed with the subsidy psyche — the main thing now is improving the areas of concern.”

He said the ministry was also looking into the possibility of introducing inter-company passes but it was not easy to convince all the companies. [TRANSIT: Convince? Why not implement a national public transport pass and expect all companies to comply?]

Transport Ministry, operators to talk
by Meena L. Ramadas
newsdesk@thesundaily.com

KUALA LUMPUR: Long-suffering Klang Valley commuters can look forward to a more integrated and efficient transport system if discussions between the Transport Ministry and the various transport operators bear fruit.

Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat said the Urban Public Transport panel which he heads will be discussing ways to coordinate and improve transport modes such as Light Rail Transit (LRT), KTM Komuter and Kuala Lumpur Monorail.

The panel will also be looking at the problems faced by commuters in relation to bus services, he said.

He declined to specify when the ministry plans to meet with the
transport operators. “Some of the problems are the lack of connectivity between housing areas, bus breakdowns and irregular bus services,” he said yesterday after his walkabout
at RapidKL’s bus depot in Taman Midah and Taman Maluri, Cheras. 

He said that during the discussion he would listen to the problems faced by the private and government bus operators in their effort to provide good service to the people and look at their weaknesses.

Later, in his blog, Ong said the feedback from the public would be taken seriously as the ministry is intent on achieving its medium-term target of increasing public transport usage in the Klang Valley from the current 16% to 25% by 2012.

He said that the ministry has been brainstorming on ways to
increase efficiency and one such method is the quality maintenance of buses and the introduction of a single pass for buses and trains.

Ong also elaborated on the improvements needed for the transport system.

“New bus routes connecting Taman Segar to LRT Bandar Tasik
Selatan as well as three extensions of current routes to LRT stations are in the pipeline to improve intermodal connectivity,” he said in his blog post.

He also said that the ministry, in collaboration with transport company Syarikat Prasarana Negara and Kuala Lumpur City Hall, will be adding eight additional buses into four routes.

“I have advised RapidKL that it is one thing to get additional buses; it is another to get as many buses on the road as possible if we are serious about improving reliability of its services,” he added. [TRANSIT: Then hire more drivers, and offer them better salaries.]

TRANSIT Says:

Comments aside, we are happy to see that the government is making some effort to improve their approach to public transportation.

The good side is that they recognize that the current system is not working and that this is a national interest. Unfortunately, they are still running things from a “government knows best” mentality instead of a cooperative mentality.

You can read more about the ‘walkabout’ on Ong Tee Keat’s blog

My Walkabout

During the morning rush hour today, I took the bus near my home at Taman Midah to the Taman Maluri station to get a first-hand feel of what Malaysian commuters are going through on a daily basis. The people’s feedback is very important in shaping our decisions and policies, and I took the opportunity to speak to them on the Government’s efforts to encourage the use of public transportation, especially on the services and facilities offered.

The media was not invited on board because I want to hear the frank views from the people without the glare of publicity. [TRANSIT: How then do you explain the article in the Star above? Remarkable coincidence?]

Various issues were brought up and among the top concerns is the regularity of the services. Other points raised included breakdowns of buses which affect reliability of the services, accessibility and journey time, as well as convenience and comfort.

The feedback received must be taken seriously if we are to achieve the ultimate medium-term target of 25% public transport peak-hour modal share for Klang Valley by 2012 from the current 16% for the National Key Result Area (NKRA) on Urban Public Transport (UPT) which I head.

The view is that in the long-term, rail services must be positioned as the backbone of our urban public transport system. In the next three years, three work-in-progress rail initiatives will be able to contribute to improving rail services.

They are:

  • 35 new 4-car sets for the K5 [Kelana Jaya] LRT line to be operational by 2012;
  • 5 new ETS for KTM’s Ipoh-Rawang line to be operational by 2010;
  • The resurrection of 9 Electrical Multiple Units (EMUs) for KTM’s commuter lines by 2010;
  • Additional cars [how many?] are pending approval from the Ministry of Finance;

There are also other rail initiatives such as:

However, something must be done in the short-term and improvement in bus services is crucial to encourage the usage of public transport to achieve our medium-term target. I welcome RapidKL and Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL)’s collaborative approach in dealing with the short comings. Although public transportation is within the domain of multiple federal and local government agencies – 13 of them to be exact – the establishment of the NKRA for UPT is a strategic move to bring together the various agencies under a collaborative umbrella with common objectives.

For the initiative this morning, we are working with Syarikat Prasarana National Berhad (SPNB) of which RapidKL falls under, and DBKL in this pilot effort for selected routes in Area 4 which covers areas like Maluri and Cheras to improve on reliability, journey time, comfort and convenience, as well as accessibility and connectivity.

We will look into putting in 8 additional buses into 4 routes, proposing bus lanes and increase enforcement of those lanes. New routes connecting Taman Segar to LRT Bandar Tasik Selatan as well as 3 extensions of current routes to LRT stations are in the pipeline to improve inter-modal connectivity. We also hope that the increase in the number of covered bus stops will alleviate the discomfort of commuters in the short to medium term. I have advised RapidKL that it is one thing to get additional buses; it is another to get as many buses on the road as possible if we are serious about improving reliability of its services.

It must be stressed that efforts at improving urban public transportation must be a comprehensive one, which involves the cooperation of various parties, including other operators. While we welcome competition among operators of public transportation, such competition must ultimately benefit the people. It doesn’t make sense for competition to only focus on peak hours.

I am confident that if we continue to listen to the people, the Government will be able to achieve the high targets set for ourselves. This is the essence of a People First, Performance Now culture.

TRANSIT Says:

Wow, the Minister of Transport is certainly skilled at telling us what we need to hear.  The challenge now is to take action in which the government and people and operators must work together to:

  • Dismantle the old, entrepreneurial model for public transport;
  • Replace this with a service-driven model;
  • Ensure that this service-driven model includes the public;
  • Ensure that this service-driven model works at the local level, not as a centralized, Putrajaya-based agency;
  • Ensure cooperation with local authorities who are probably not interested in doing much;
  • Ensure that public transport planning, infrastructure, development planning and commercial planning all occur together

None of this will be easy…but if the efforts taking place in Cheras were focused on building a proper structure to manage public transport instead of doing everything at the ministry level then people would see that it is possible.

Advertisements

One thought on “Ong Tee Keat takes the bus”

  1. KL has a long way to go in terms of public transport functionality and integration…

    Refer to the Helsinki public transportation system, website here: http://www.ytv.fi/ENG/transport/frontpage.htm

    All timetables and route maps are uploaded to the page, and most of the time the buses and trains are on schedule. Also ticketing is fully integrated.

    Of course all this is heavily supported by taxpayer money, which is actually the correct way (as opposed to semi privatization ala Rapid KL)…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s