TRANSIT has taken note of a number of letters complaining about traffic congestion on Jalan Syed Putra.
- Bus lanes worsen congestion at Syed Putra – (10 March 2010)
- Improve system or abolish bus lanes – (16 March 2010)
Both writers claim that peak hour congestion on Jalan Syed Putra is worsened by the presence of bus lanes which operate during the daytime, as well as the behaviour of bus drivers.
They also cite the bus stop opposite MidValley MegaMall as a major bottleneck point.
The question is, are they right or wrong? The answer might surprise you.
From: Improve system or abolish bus lanes, by Richard Y.W. Yeoh
I …. urge DBKL to do an urgent review of the bus lane system in Kuala Lumpur, in particular the stretch along Jalan Syed Putra, which has been reduced to two lanes on both sides of the highway as a result of the bus lanes. I have raised this matter at various forums and meetings over the years but nothing has been done.
The bus lanes are operational six days a week from 6am until 8am. Bus lanes should operate only at peak hours and only if there is an efficient bus system which, sad to say, we still do not have.
It is painful to see traffic congested on two lanes of the highway while the bus lane is empty or used by buses that run sporadically. Bus lanes are not for show and we must make sure there are buses using them regularly. If not, please abolish these bus lanes. And thus, I am very alarmed that there are plans to increase bus lanes in Kuala Lumpur.
We have been arguing for a long time that there is a need to improve the way that bus lanes are placed in and around Kuala Lumpur.
TRANSIT believes that bus lanes are a wise investment for federal, state and local governments to make, and that the number of bus lanes along major roads in cities across Malaysia should be increased wherever possible. If they are well-used, a single bus lane can move far more people than a mixed-traffic lane.
By separating different types of traffic, the flow of traffic is generally improved. Also, the presence of bus lanes has a calming effect on traffic. Less lane changing also means fewer delays for motorists.
At the same time, we recognize that there are weaknesses in the way that bus lanes are introduced and implemented in the Klang Valley and we realize that if the DBKL, Federal Territories Ministry, SPAD and the public transport operators do not work to overcome these weaknesses, bus lanes will not be able to reach their full potential for moving people who use public transport.
The first weakness is related to the competitive, entrepreneurial model of public transport that is used in Malaysia. Because the majority of bus operators must maximize profits, they are more likely to wait at spots where there are many potential passengers – such as opposite MidValley Megamall in KL, or opposite Sunway Pyramid in Bandar Sunway.
By shifting from a competitive, entrepreneurial model to a competitive, service-based model, we can reduce the number of delays at bus stops.
Bus lanes may also operate on a contra-flow basis, meaning that in the morning, only bus lanes towards the city should be operational while in the evening, bus lanes leaving the city should be operational. This is only logical considering that people commute into the city in the mornings and commute out in the evenings.
The present system, which effectively reduces the six-lane expressway to a four-lane crawl and in place since 1997 without any review or adjustment truly defies logic.
The second issue is the type of bus lanes themselves. Generally, the bus lanes in the Klang Valley are painted kerbside bus lanes, which are often not complete and can be easily blocked by parked vehicles. A stroll next to the DBKL building on Jalan Raja Laut will show many DBKL vehicles blocking the bus lane. Frankly, without effective enforcement, bus lanes cannot move people effectively.
The best solution to reduce the number of vehicles blocking the bus lanes is to physically separate the bus lanes from the regular traffic using kerbs or bollards. Also, contra-flow lanes will discourage other vehicles from using the bus lanes.
The last issue is that bus lanes are not given their proper place in the hierarchy of lanes on our roadways. Because a bus can carry 60 people, 10 x more than a car, bus lanes should be placed in the centre of our highways and expressways to move more people.
It is time for the Federal Territories Ministry, SPAD, state governments, DBKL and Local Councils to rethink how we design our roads and expressways. Instead of focusing on moving vehicles, we should focus on moving as many people, as quickly and effectively as possible.
The bus stop along Jalan Syed Putra that serves MidValley also needs to be relocated to a proper place. It has been the cause of traffic congestion along that stretch all these years as there is no lay-by for the buses to stop. This is worsened by impatient bus drivers who cannot wait their turn to move but insist on overtaking by using the regular lanes.
Placing bus lanes in the centre of the highway, and physically separating the bus lanes from other traffic will allow the buses to move at high speed, and encourage service that is more frequent, punctual and reliable. In addition, there will be reduced congestion because of the increased flow of traffic in the other lanes of the highways & roadways.
Physically separated bus lanes means that there will be no lane changes, so this will reduce a major cause of congestion. Also, using contra-flow lanes will allow the buses to share space, so the bus lanes can be narrower. This means that other traffic will have more space available. Wider lanes mean that traffic can flow at a faster rate.
Finally, instead of having bus stops at the side of our highways, we can build ‘stations’ with platforms in the centre of the highways. These will be more comfortable and safer for public transport users and having fewer bus stops at the sides of the highway would allow the highways to be widened in certain stretches.
If the Road Transport Act can be amended to encourage these improved bus lanes, we will see more reliable public transport service and reduced congestion on our highways and roadways. This will help our roads & highways become more effective at moving people and moving the economy.
TRANSIT invites you to comment on our proposal for improved bus lanes. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment at http://transitmy.org/2010/03/17/do-bus-lanes-worsen-congestion/.