Say NO to futile lane expansions for cars, and YES to busways!

 

Morning rush hour view of Subang traffic merging into the Federal Highway from KL-bound Cityliner 710. (TRANSIT photo archive)

 

TRANSIT is very much concerned on the way highway expansion projects make its way on our newspapers and media, when nothing has ever been mentioned on plans to modify our expressways to facilitate greater flow of movement for everyone through Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or Expressway Rapid Transit (ERT, a flexible, speedier and more practical form of Bus Expressway Transit). Why build one extra lane for cars (to accomodate 2,000 drivers per hour) when 20,000-30,000 people can benefit from it per hour through BRT or ERT.

Proposals to ease traffic jams

2010/10/05
By Noel Achariam

 

Litrak and PWD are looking for solutions to ease the rush-hour traffic congestion on the Federal Highway. (NST)

 

PETALING JAYA: A ray of hope is on the horizon for long-suffering motorists who inch their way through the notorious Federal Highway jam daily.

Several proposals are being looked into to ease peak-hour traffic congestion on the highway which is one of the city’s main arteries.

Lingkaran Trans Kota Sdn Bhd (Litrak) are working together with the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Federal Government to come up with the best solution.

Litrak Group chief executive officer Sazally Saidi said several proposals are being studied.

“We have been discussing the matter since last year with the government, which owns the Federal Highway, and the PWD, which manages it.

“One of the proposals, which will involve land acquisition, is to widen the Federal Highway.

“Another proposal is to come up with a proper management scheme to control the flow of traffic on the highway.

“These are all proposals and we hope to reach a decision on the issue soon,” he said at the Litrak Hari Raya open house.

Sazally said reducing the traffic congestion on the Federal Highway would also help to reduce the congestion on the Lebuhraya-Damansara-Puchong (LDP).

TRANSIT Says: On the other hand, the Federal Highway users will blame the LDP users for the congestion. After all, adding lanes for a few miles of speedy travel will make no sense, knowing that the existing bottlenecks surrounding the city center will remain, uhm, bottlenecks.

“The massive traffic jam on the LDP is caused by the congestion on the Federal Highway. Motorists who are exiting the LDP toll plaza are caught in the traffic crawl at the Motorola exit heading towards the city.

“This project might be outside of our area, but we have spent RM900 million on the LDP, so we hope to look for a win-win solution,” he said.

TRANSIT is once again sad to hear another news on highway expansion project to relieve traffic bottlenecks consisting mostly of Single-Occupancy Vehicles (SOVs). In July 2010, it was the news on NKVE to be expanded to four lanes. After all, how much expansion can be done to meet our increasing private vehicle use, considering our rigid urban forms parallel to existing expressway corridors have already been saturated with 100% car-oriented urban developments.

Much worse, we hear from policy makers that since there is no more space above the ground, metro lines need to be drilled underground (to reach similar passenger capacity of Transmilenio BRT with 20x the cost), while forgetting about other modes of transit which depends on existing road hierarchies for the entire transit system to be truly integrated and usable.

TRANSIT wonders if the government realise that it is backtracking from its commitment towards prioritizing public transport, as outlined in the GTP’s NKRA for Urban Public Transport? Has SPAD been consulted?

The National Urban Policy emphasizes on integrated multi-modal terminals based on urban hierarchy, and our current urban hierarchy is shaped by the existing networks of roads and highways. So far, we have yet to hear any news on BRT, which should garner greater publicity due to its high applicability (cost-effective, high capacity and speed, short time frame).

 

City-bound RapidKL buses stuck in Jalan Klang Lama's morning rush hour

 

Since high density developments are already visible along Federal Highway and other open access roadways like Jalan Klang Lama, it makes more sense for extra lanes to be constructed exclusively for buses. Median lanes can be converted into busways that can only be exclusively plied by articulated buses. BRT plans have been outlined in the GTP’s NKEA for urban public transport, and we wonder why we still hear news of highway expansion for cars.

 

Bus Rapid Transit works as a spine for fast commuting to suburban centers along the spine through Hub and Spoke system.

 

Some may say close system highways like NKVE or even MEX can’t accommodate rapid transit lines because the alignments of the expressways missed out suburban centers and areas with Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) potential, and only pass through low density residential areas. TRANSIT’s proposed Expressway Rapid Transit (ERT) can be applied on limited-access expressways that aren’t suitable for BRTs, as the expressways still intersect with perpendicular/parallel arterial roads to suburban centers (and these roads will be suitable for local BRTs that can operate on intermittent/reversible lanes).

RapidBET alone can’t fix the problem due to the unreliable journey along entry and exit ramps, not to add traffic congestion for last mile journeys to terminals within CBD and urban centers. Not to mention the buses which will remain underutilized during off-peaks, and less rolling stocks translate to less available routes and less ridership.

The expressways that are deemed underutilized (most obvious, KESAS) will sooner or later be overutilized as new low density residences (Kota Kemuning etc) sprung up, and unless there is a way for the traffic utilization of the expressways to be optimized, BET will die a natural death in the next few years. Unless we want to go with Road Pricing, but then people will say they want good bus service first, and bus can’t run efficiently in traffic jams.

The government must not wait for the underutilized expressways to be overutilized, and as soon as people start to believe in ERT (which requires ERT terminals and feeders as explained in flash presentation below), Road Pricing should be more palatable for the affected highway users.

 

The changing toll rates for vehicles entering High Occupancy Tollways in Seattle, USA ensures traffic flow in expressways are clear so that buses can reach their destinations faster. The more the traffic, the higher the toll rates for SOVs. Buses travel for free. (Seattle's Daily News)

 

With ERT, express bus operators are given flexibility to use their underutilized buses to serve commuting demands from ERT terminals along expressways that intersect arterials plied by local rapid bus services, to ERT gateways at strategic inner-city cordon points (like Dang Wangi LRT and Cheras LRT). The expressways can be assigned with demand-driven toll rates for rapid and frequent ERT services.

Since traffic volume can differ across different highway stretches, an Electronic Road Pricing mechanism might be suitable to charge users to adjust traffic demand on busy stretches.

For couch potatoes out there, here is an interactive guide to how ERT works!


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9 thoughts on “Say NO to futile lane expansions for cars, and YES to busways!”

  1. Total agreed-Yes to bus lane!
    There will never be sufficient expansion of car lanes.
    As on the expansion of MRT/LRT/Komuter, the shuttle to the housing areas,offices is essential.Careful and great consideration needs to be put in place if government is serious to make public transport really useful and number ONE means of transport. I for one is a daily Komuter passenger and I stay about 5mins drive from the station, but no feeder bus or any bus is available for me to reach the Komuter station.

  2. Thanks ai Ching for the view.

    Our car-oriented mobility has resulted in over-dependence on highways, and mass transit can’t work without policies to curb private vehicle use as mass transit vehicles like trams and buses rely on road infrastructure. Tolled highways with rigid access points accelerate cul-de-sac land use planning that emphasizes more on speed rather than access, and we can’t expect buses to ply through residential areas efficiently when communities are segmentized by the car-oriented road system. Unfortunately, our highways are privatized, based on the wrong belief that once Build and Transfer contract ends (like by the time our children gets old), people can have smooth flowing highways for free.

    The reason Concessionaires will never end as long as highways are being continuously upgraded to meet additional demands from Private Vehicles. This will be a never ending story – unless the government takes control on expressways and and keep it smooth flowing by levying congestion-based toll rates and channeling the revenues for universal and accessible public transport to all.

    This MRT talk is nonsense – expense the masses for the benefit of the few. Haven’t we learn something from the bailout of Putra & Star LRT and Berjaya Monorail?

    Go for BRT, with $3billion Klang Valley can have many alignments that benefit everyone, instead of splurge on $50billion and have the contractors and land developers go laughing to the bank as the majority of us will still be without easy access to the rail transit points!

  3. It is indeed an excellent job to undertake to expend any road or highway as it is a pain to drive around weather for work or pleasure. Here in America we have 10 lanes and we are still building more.Make a trip over here see our transit system one of the finest in world.Mr Noel Achariam

  4. Hi Noel Move over here and learn the worlds most biggest and excellent Transport System .In America. Tell your boys to come along too .Your neighbor Singapore should teach you guys a thing or two.Anyway your article is an eye openerand Good.

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