TRANSIT took note of this article in the Borneo post, in which Abang Johari, Minister of Local Government and Urban Development, commented on plans to improve public transport in Kuching with new buses and improved technology.
RM200m needed for modern city transport: Abg Jo (Borneo Post)
January 28, 2010, Thursday
KUCHING: The state government will request between RM150 and RM200 million to improve and modernise the bus services in the city.
Minister of Housing and Urban Development Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said if he could raise the fund, the city’s public transport would certainly be transformed.
“Public transportation is one of our National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) and it is envisaged that within five years time Kuching will not only enjoy modern bus services but also an integrated public transport system when the land transport is linked with the water taxis” he said during press conference after being briefed by Sarawak Transport and Co Association (STC), Traffic Committee and Commercial Vehicle and Licensing Board (LPKP)
“Our aim is to start with 50 new public buses through partnership with private operators. The cost of these modern buses will be between RM750,000 and RM1 million. Therefore, it may not be financially feasible for private operators to revamp the bus operations on their own due to the lack of funds and high costs of operation,” he said.
He added that the fund would be used to improve the public transportation infrastructure, integrating modern technologies such as electronic tickets and Global Positioning System (GPS).
The implementation would not only benefit locals and stakeholders, but most importantly it will also boost tourism into the city, he said.
According to Johari there are currently 101 registered buses in Kuching and 13 per cent of the city’s population depends on public transportation and 85 per cent passengers depending on buses.
“Because of the poor bus transport services, people are increasingly turning to private mode of transport. If this trend continues, the public transport’s mode share will be reduced to 10 per cent in the year 2020,” he said.
Johari explained that the trend would affect the viability of buses as public transportation which in turn will cause traffic congestion, high carbon emission and pollution.
He said that with the city’s population current annual average growth rate put at 3.3 per cent, the city’s projected population would reach about 700,000 by the year 2020.
“Right now the average speed during morning and evening peak hours is about 20km per hour. We are concerned that unrestrained traffic volume growth will result in intolerable congestion levels that will reduce the average speed to 10km per hour by the year 2020,” he added.
According to Johari, motor vehicle registration has been growing at the rate of approximately 6.2 per cent per annum and the figures have now reached 200,000 cars and 195,000 motorcycles, with average car ownership at 0.8 car per household.
The implementation of the new buses would help limit carbon emissions and pollution enough to meet Malaysia’s commitment to reduce carbon emission by 40 per cent in the year 2025.
Johari said that the buses would also cater to the elderly and handicapped and there would be bus lanes and bus stops equipped with electronic information boards to ensure timely arrivals and departures.
He added that a new route system connecting the city centre to the suburbs would be implemented.
“Kuching Central will be the main hub connecting to a series of sub-hubs in the suburbs, to encourage the park-and-ride system that will help reduce entry of private vehicles into the city centre,” he said.
Kuching is the 4th largest city in Malaysia and would definitely benefit from an investment in public transport.
And the proposal that Abang Johari is probably referring to is the recent City Area Transit (CAT) proposal for bus-rapid transit in Kuching which was introduced in October 2009.
The CAT Bus-Rapid Transit proposal adds Kuching to the number of cities in Malaysia that have suddenly become realistic and started to embrace Bus-Rapid Transit.
Now, we at TRANSIT are not wedded to a particular form of public transport technology — yes, we have said this before but it bears repeating — but we can see the possibilities and advantages of Bus Rapid Transit in terms of its lower capital costs and faster implementation time.
So we are happy to see that Kuching has joined the list. Next up may be Ipoh, Melaka and Kota Kinabalu. Will they start to fall into place soon?
But overall what matters most is real change in the way public transport operates. Yes, we are changing the laws, moving to a service-based model, investing more money, looking at realistic solutions…but if the public are not included in the planning and the oversight of these public transport services, then nothing will really have changed for the public transport user.
We will still be taking the public transport system that is given to us…without the chance to make it any better.