What makes KL a livable city?

TRANSIT was invited to a forum on building vibrant and liveable cities by the National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN) on 5 October 2010. Two distinguished speakers were invited to speak, namely Councillor Paul Scriven from Sheffield City Council, UK on “Building High Quality of Urban Life: The Sheffield Experience” and Dr Lawrence Tseu from Ministry of Housing and UrbanDevelopment, Sarawak on “Public Transportation: Sustaining Cities’ Ambience and Efficiency“.

As the two speakers emphasized on continuous community empowerment, engagement and participation and on pushing for greater political will to design cities for the people (instead of cars), is very important for our policymakers and planners who are grappling to solve congestion-driven socioeconomic gridlock in Malaysian cities to first look at the ‘why’ aspect, before trying to figure out the whats and hows.

The Malaysian Insider news portal quoted, “Malaysia’ capital city has dropped eight spots to 48 in a ranking of the world’s most global cities by international management consulting firm AT Kearney, suggesting the Najib administration has to try harder to make Kuala Lumpur a world class city” and “In terms of liveability, KL ranks just 79th out of 130 cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2010 ranking of easiest places to live and was stagnant at 75th in the Mercer study of best places to live from 2006-2009.”

Malaysia’ capital city has dropped eight spots to 48 in a ranking of the world’s most global cities by international management consulting firm AT Kearney (source: The Malaysian Insider)

Why is the ranking bad in the first place? Why KL is such a bad place to live in compared to Bangkok? Why urbanites had to rely on their alienated moving cocoons in order to work, live and play? Why so much resources pooled from these urbanites were channeled to create more and more exclusive, car-driven, pedestrian-unfriendly and expensive highways, bridges and other urban structures and complexes, that invite segregation rather than interaction?

And finally, the million dollar question of – why can’t they take the public transport?

Then can only we work on the question how – how can we improve permeability between urban spaces originally designed for cars, how can we transform cities (land use development) previously constrained by convoluted motorways, to that which is more open and inviting to everyone, including the physically-challenged, how can we move people towards their destinations along existing common traveling corridors comfortably faster and cheaper so that more time can be spent towards productive community-based activities and fulfilling family fun-tivities, how do we know whether what we do will benefit the people… and the question can go on and on and on…

Until can only we settle with the question what – what are the modes of transport are we looking for to meet our common goals and means, what type of transit traveling behavior and pattern that can perfectly suit the needs of the suburban dwellers, what kind of alignment should we aim for to facilitate easy movements for city-bound commuters without jeopardizing the needs of those who are employed in employment centers outside of the Central Business District boundaries….

Unfortunately, our policymakers’ approach in making Greater Kuala Lumpur a great city to live in is quite the opposite…

What do we need? Well, since congestion is screwing our people, since not many people have access to trains, since great train ridership translates to great cities and since great cities have savvy-looking trains, we must have one of those. Yeah, we definitely need an MRT! We need one over here, one over there, and one circling these areas here and there.

How can that meet our needs? Oh we don’t yet have any masterplan or numbers on hand, but we are appointing a consultant to see whether MRT will work, in which we already know beforehand it will work because we know everyone knows only MRT can carry so much people.

Why we need it? Uh, oh, uhm, we are still figuring that out… oh yeah, Kuala Lumpur population will grow to 10 million and everyone will suffer by then without the MRT.

Oh dear… we had spent billions on LRT coaches and overpasses and underpasses and tracks,… and our public transport ridership has never been worse. First, we say people will suffer without trains (Komuter), and then ‘flying trains’ (PUTRA, STAR, monorail)… and finally ________ (please answer by yourself).

Perhaps we should once again ponder the question of why KL is such a bad place to live in?

The video posts below show that there is hope. If Brazil can, there is no question that Malaysia boleh!

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