Will public transport save PJ?

TRANSIT notes a very interesting set of articles in The Star Metro section on 26 October, which focus on the issues of public transport in Petaling Jaya.

Both of the articles focus on very interesting messages related to development and public transport planning – basically, if they are not planned holistically, then there will be trouble.

TRANSIT hopes that interested parties including PJ residents will give us as much feedback as they can so we can help improve public transport in this community.

Pushing the need for better public transport

26 October
By YIP YOKE TENG and CHRISTINA LOW

PETALING Jaya will “burst at the seams” after 2020 if public transportation still fails to gain popularity among its inhabitants, traffic consultant Goh Bok Yen said.

“No amount of additional highways or road works will be able cope with the development of PJ after 2020.“There’s no way to catch up with the city’s rapid growth,” Goh warned.His company was recently commissioned by the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) to conduct a macro traffic study to look into the congestion-plagued Lembah Subang area.

The area alone would take in another 48 new projects by 2020 — 20 under construction, 23 proposed, four completed recently and 1 abandoned.

A total of 17 short-, medium- and long-term solutions were then proposed and later endorsed by 29 residents’ associations and the relevant elected representatives through six dialogues.

Necessary: Bus services must also be improved in Petaling Jaya. Image courtesy of The Star Metro
Necessary: Bus services must also be improved in Petaling Jaya. Image courtesy of The Star Metro

The proposals costing RM86mil were being implemented progressively to cater to another 9,300 residential units, 759 shop houses, 451 hotel rooms and commercial space measuring 1.7mil sq meters.

But, after 2020, the efforts are doomed to failure, as the highly lucrative city will continue to pull in development, unless public transportation can be developed in tandem with the growth.

“Public transportation is the only way out.

“Sadly, only 12% of the population in PJ take buses and the LRT but we have to push it to at least 30% to strike an equilibrium,” Goh said, adding that [the] community bus would be a good tool.

[TRANSIT: We have tried our best to get support from the State government for more local public transport initiatives but nothing has been forthcoming.]

More worryingly, there are not many plans to improve the city’s public transportation in the near future. RapidKL is currently servicing 27 routes in PJ. as well as the providing feeder bus services but many have complained about the low frequency.

The recently unveiled proposed locations of new stations for Kelana Jaya and Ampang LRT extension lines are not in PJ.

The other hope is the Kota Damansara-Cheras line announced in 2006, estimated to be ready by 2012, but there is still no concrete news till now. One wonders how many years the line will need to take shape.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua admitted that he was among those shocked at the high number of projects approved for PJ without careful consideration on the traffic impact, adding that the problem was compounded by a public transportation system that could not meet the needs and expectations due to poor planning.

“Developers are not required to submit public transport plans as part of the development approval while the local authorities do not have plans either when approving the projects.

“Although developers submit reports as required but they focus on the immediate vicinity while turning a blind eye to the overall area.

“Worse still, the traffic consultants are paid by the developers, resulting in vested interests,” he said, adding that fragmented land ownership made the matter worse.

He highlighted that having 13 government agencies to handle public transportation issues was a killer.

“Centralisation of public transport decision-making at the federal level makes it practically impossible to make the best decision for each town and city all over the country.

“On the other hand, route networks are largely left to private or semi-private entities who favour profitable routes, and local authorities have no say at all,” he added.

The solution to this, he suggested, was to have a local transportation authority controlling and managing the system with guidelines issued by a federal body.

The authority should also keep the necessary checks and balances with reformed mechanisms, such as a regime of limited competition adopted by the European Union states.

Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) director-general Datuk Ismail Mohd Salleh also agreed that the focus should be steered towards public transportation now in view of the massive development along urban highways, especially the Damansara-Puchong Highway.

“We cannot keep on building highways, there will not be adequate space and it is not feasible, hence the government has set its sights on boosting public transport,” he said.

He said development projects were under the purview of the local council and the only way MHA could give its input was approving or disapproving applications of access from the projects to the highways.

TRANSIT Says:

TRANSIT has worked to push the model of local public transport with local government and community support.  Unfortunately, our efforts with the State Government have not had much of an impact.

There is nothing in the article above that we disagree with. The poor quality of public transport exists because of over competition, not enough localization of public transport planning and funding, and ineffective communication between the City Council and the Community.

As you can see from the article below, the MBPJ is making an effort but it is not having enough of a positive impact.

Close encounter with PJ’s community bus service
Monday October 26, 2009
By CHRISTINA LOW

THE Petaling Jaya community bus service has been up and running for more than a year now, but the city council has not made much improvements to it, leaving many unaware of the free bus service, thinking it was meant for Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) employees only.

[TRANSIT: See our earlier comments here.]

Leaflets on the bus routes could only be found at the MBPJ headquarters and on the bus itself but not at bus stands or LRT stations.

Recently, I had the chance to try the service and picked up a brochure that said the bus made three rounds daily at 9.30am, 11.30am and 2.30pm.

I headed off to the Arena Sports Centre on Jalan Selangor and waited for the bus as it was one of the many stops along the Petaling Jaya Selatan (PJS) route the bus would be taking.

Being a little early, I killed time by reading a magazine I had brought along and, at about 11.45am, I spotted the bus turning on to the road.

Only answer: According to Goh, public transport is the only way to prevent PJ from ‘bursting at the seams. Image courtesy of The Star Metro
Only answer: According to Goh, public transport is the only way to prevent PJ from ‘bursting at the seams.' Image courtesy of The Star Metro

However, the bus driver somehow failed to notice me as he drove past, just like what had happened to many of the complainants.

I waved frantically while running towards the next stop which was just down the road at the MBPJ community library.

Someone on board must have caught sight of me as the driver stopped the bus and I managed to hop aboard.

The passengers on board were mainly senior citizens though there was one young school girl also using the bus.

Our next stop was the busy Jalan Othman Market bus stop where about half the passengers alighted. The driver waited a good five minutes for more passengers to fill up the bus while I took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with fellow passenger Nurul Syakila Ahmad who was with her mother Samsiah Mohd Yusop.

“My mother takes the bus very often to go to the banks and buy groceries, it is very convenient and I normally accompany her on the trip,” said Nurul, 17, who lives in Taman Medan.

Samsiah, who works as a cleaner, said the bus also stopped near her work place, so she could kill two birds with one stone and could save some extra money.

However, Samsiah, who alighted at the Old Klang Road stop, hopes to see the service extended to 5pm as it would be a great help for the poor in her area.

The bus went on the designated routes but also picked up passengers at junctions as well as some who waited outside their houses.

At about 12.30pm, two primary school pupils — Muhd Aidiel Muhd Sufi and Siti Sara Muhd Sufi — came aboard at the Taman Datuk Haron commuter stop.

All quiet: The bus was fairly empty during the trip. Image courtesy of The Star Metro
All quiet: The bus was fairly empty during the trip. Image courtesy of The Star Metro

The two siblings said they took the bus daily to school as it was convenient and reliable.

“We usually take the bus to school as it is convenient and free, but we will take the public bus to get home after school,” Siti Sara, 11, said.

Currently the PJS bus service caters to destinations like the MBPJ complex, the PJ police headquarters, the PJ Community Library, the Medan Maju Jaya district health centre in PJS 2C/5, the Jalan Othman market in Section 4, and the Taman Jaya LRT station.

The PJU bus service now passes the roads along the MBPJ complex, Section 52, SS2, Kelana Jaya, Section 14, Jalan Universiti, SS1, SS5, SS7, Lembah Subang, Section 16, Section 13 and back to Section 52 instead of the previous Kota Damansara routes.

Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor Tiew Way Keng, who heads the PJ Community Bus Service task force, said the new routes for the PJU area were introduced a few months back with hopes of getting better response from the public.

[TRANSIT: We sent a message to Councillor Tiew but never got a reply. I guess we have to try harder?]

Tiew also said the service to Kota Damansara was further and the bus needed at least four hours to complete a round in the area and back to MBPJ complex.

In the first revision, the council included the LRT stations as previously the bus only stopped at low-cost housing areas

On whether the council would extend its service hours, she said it depended on the number of passengers using the free service.

“We will definitely look into increasing the number of buses and the operational hours if there are more people boarding the bus.

“By the end of next month, all bus stops will have signs showing bus routes and estimated arrival times,” said Tiew.

Traffic consultant Goh Bok Yen felt the free community bus service provided by the council was a considerate move to help the people but for the service to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road, it needed improvement.

“The buses must be able to select the optimum routes as well as understand passengers’ preference,” he added.

He strongly recommended the use of community buses for PJ as he found out that many motorists here made only short-distance trips.

TRANSIT Says:

We have done what we can to encourage people to support local public transport. We have supported the Kota Damansara – Cheras line over LRT extensions to Putra Heights. We have tried to give the government feedback on their planning and the community bus service.

But sadly, the government does not seem to be listening.

What is needed is that they must listen to the people…but if you do not speak up in an active, collective way, they will think you have nothing to say.

Do you have nothing to say?

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4 thoughts on “Will public transport save PJ?”

  1. To really encourage bus usage, the following needs to be done:
    1) Dedicated bus lanes to show car drivers that using buses is advantageous compared to being stuck in traffic jams
    2) Adequate pedestrian walkways so that it’s safe for embarking/disembarking bus passengers
    3) Common ticketing system for all transportation systems – LRT, bus, KTM, monorail
    4) Accurate bus route maps and clearly labeled bus stop numbers / bus numbers

  2. The Community Bus idea is a good one and should be encouraged. However, the problem with it is that it doesn’t run frequently enough. To encourage commuters to leave their cars and take the bus, the busses have to run more than just 3 or 4 times a day. I understand that there are other implications involved, namely financial – whether the Councils have sufficient funds to extend the operations. However, this once again calls for more direct involvement from the State Government.

    Public transport planning should not be micromanaged from the Federal level as that is certain to be a recipe for disaster. I know that TRANSIT has been giving some input to the State Government, but perhaps trying to arrange for formal meetings with the state and the relevant EXCO members might be the next step (not sure if this has been done). I know that the MB’s Office has been looking into Transportation as one of their work areas and I’m pretty sure that the staff there are receptive to ideas.

    1. Noel

      Thank you for the feedback. We feel that the PJ Community Bus is an underrated success simply because the Selangor Government and MBPJ have not developed a full appreciation for how much of a difference the Community Shuttle Bus can make.

      In other words, they have a bit of an idea that they did a good thing but they do not know how good it is.

      TRANSIT has shared our ideas with the Selangor government in the form of a memo about Local Shuttle Bus service as well as a list of talking points on public transport (for residents to ask their government).

      We are also working on creating a “Tips for Local Councils” section where we can share information on how a local council can improve public transport in their community.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

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