Some time ago, TRANSIT took note of this article in the Star Metro that describes the Dedicated Transport Service (DTS) provided by RapidKL for companies in CyberJaya. We are interested in the technology, the service, and the arrangement between RapidKL and the CyberJaya Corporation. And above all, we are happy to see more people using public transport.
But we have questions that we would like to ask about the service, especially since the Auditor General has pointed out problems with DTS in the 2009 Report which describes the service as “uneconomic and inefficient”.
Read the article first to get some background knowledge about DTS. Our thoughts about DTS and similar services follow.
Boon to knowledge workers
By CHARLES FERNANDEZ
15 July 2009
EMPLOYEES of banking institution HSBC are the heaviest users of the 24-hour Dedicated Transport System (DTS) since it started operations in 2007 to provide a link between Cyberjaya and areas located within an 80km radius.
Cyberview Sdn Bhd (CSB) managing director Datuk Redza Rafiq said efforts were being made to encourage more knowledge workers to use the system as only slightly more than 10% of the 20,000 working population in Cyberjaya were using it.
“HSBC is by far the largest user with 2,000, followed by MDec and OCBC Bank with a total of 140 users. We are conducting outreach programmes at companies to brief them on the benefits of using the DTS system,” Redza said.
All DTS buses serviced by RapidKL are equipped with the Mobile Tracking Unit (MTU) that is capable of monitoring the buses via the Global Positioning System (GPS).
Waiting for passengers: RapidKL DTS buses waiting in line in front of the HSBC bus shelter in Cyberjaya; it is the biggest bus shelter as the company is the largest user of the DTS system. Image courtesy of The Star.
The unit contains a GPS chipset that can track locations and a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) telecommunications unit for sending location information to a Web Server.
Redza said besides tracking the bus’s location, the MTU could alert the system when a bus departed from its base and warn the administrators should the bus experience a breakdown.
“On the rare occasion when a bus stalls, a replacement will be immediately despatched from a fleet of 10 reserve buses.
“The MTU also confirms a passenger’s presence on any particular bus through the i-Button, a Radio Frequency Identification chip in the system.
“This will allow companies in Cyberjaya to track employees and ensure they are safe from the time they leave their office until they reach their final destination in near real-time,” he said.
HSBC is the only company in Cyberjaya that provides all its workers using the DTS with the i-Button and CSB is working with other companies to adopt a similar system for their employees.
The MTU-installed DTS is reputed to be the first in the world to use the GPS and GPRS and this could be one of the answers to solving the parking and congestion problems in the cybercity in the years to come.
The DTS charges RM213 per passenger per month. The buses leave from seven locations daily – KL Sentral, Gombak, Kepong, Bangi, Klang, Banting and Seremban.
“The system is gaining steam with a total of 31 companies having signed up for the service. The DTS is an affordable, reliable and efficient mode of transportation for any knowledge worker based in Cyberjaya,” Redza said.
Bus schedules are designed to suit the working hours of the companies operating in Cyberjaya, especially the shared services and outsourcing companies, with the pick-up times customised to individual company needs.
Atosorigin Sdn Bhd employee Harjinder Singh is keen to try the DTS because it is a convenient way of commuting to his workplace from his home in Port Dickson.
Keeping track: DTS stakeholder relations unit executives Norhafizah Saharin and Abdul Latif Yasin monitoring the MTU system in the control unit in Cyberjaya. Image courtesy of The Star.
“I’d heard that the DTS buses were specially modified and had reclinable seats.
“This service is perfect for me; the only hassle I face is that I have to make my way to the Seremban pick-up point on my own,” said Harjinder, who recently started work as an IT engineer at his new workplace.
Regular passenger Khatijah Abdul Sidek from Shah Alam said she had been using the DTS for more than a year and found it very convenient as it provided a direct service from Wisma Masalam.
“I use a monthly pass but it will be good for the workers if all companies followed the HSBC i-Button system for safety reasons, as many of us work at odd times, sometimes leaving for home in the wee hours of the morning,” she said.
There are now 53 buses operating 24 hours, seven days a week. The pick-up and drop-off points are at KL Sentral; Bukit Jalil; Puchong; Melawati; Ampang Point; Gombak; Bandar Tasik Selatan; KTM Serdang; Shell Section 1, Bandar Baru Bangi; Sg Ramal Luar Kajang; Putrajaya Sentral; Komplek Desa Kepong; 1 Utama Damansara; LRT Kelana Jaya; Summit USJ, Subang Jaya; Klang Parade; Lotus Restaurant, Jalan Gasing, PJ; Wisma Masalam, Shah Alam; Terminal 1, Seremban; Courts Mammoth, Nilai; Pasaraya Dengkil and Narsco Plantation, Banting.
We like the idea of public transport for knowledge workers.
Google likes the idea too. A few years ago they introduced their well-known shuttle bus service which brings commuters from various areas in the San Francisco Bay area of California to their headquarters in Mountain View, California. An image of the Google Shuttle is below:
The Google Shuttle Bus has been profiled in many newspapers, both positively and negatively. See some examples below:
- Google’s Buses Help Its Workers Beat the Rush – An article from the New York Times that discusses the Shuttle Bus
- Google Buses Rankle Jersey Street Residents – This article discusses how residents of some neighbourhoods are not happy with the congestion, noise and pollution of waiting buses.
- The Google Effect: How the company’s shuttle line affects San Francisco real estate – This article comes from a real-estate perspective and says that there is a growing demand for houses along the routes of the shuttle service
According to “The Official Google Blog” in this posting “Worth the Drive”
The Google shuttle carries an average of 155 employees a day. Each run totals about 75 miles – that’s 11,625 miles a day we’re not driving. If the average car gets 25 mpg, then we’re saving some 465 gallons of gas a day, or 2,325 gallons a week – weekly savings of $4,998.75 (figuring $2.15/gallon).
Between the shuttle’s wireless access and the earth-friendly fuel, it’s hard to imagine getting more out of a daily commute.
Many other companies, particularly those in information and communications technology industries have also introduced private commuter bus services. The Institute of Transportation Studies at Berkeley University has this interesting post which also discusses research on the impacts of these private services on economic growth and the community.
We have three major concerns with the Dedicated Transport Service to Cyberjaya.
First, we are concerned about a lack of transparency with respect to the Dedicated Transport Service. While we recognize that it is a private service, it is being operated by RapidKL, a company that is indirectly owned by the Ministry of Finance.
We have a serious concern that employees of a government linked company are providing a service for private companies which is not accessible to the general public.
Second, we are concerned that the DTS does not represent an effective use of public transport assets, namely the 53 buses which are used for the service. According to some sources, these buses were purchased exclusively for the DTS, and the special design does bear this out.
However, we are concerned that RapidKL is facing a bus and driver shortage and is unable to provide reasonably frequent service on its public routes. Service frequencies have declined from the promised 5/10/20 in 2006 to 20/30/40 in 2010, and the number of routes have been cut or ‘consolidated’ regularly since 2007 – interestingly, the year when the DTS actually started.
TRANSIT has seen with our own eyes on more than one occasion large numbers (more than 30) of DTS buses sitting at the Cyberjaya Transport Terminal in the daytime – far away from other Klang Valley routes.
Our third concern is that RapidKL is extending itself too far by operating the DTS. As we have said above, RapidKL should be focusing on operating routes in the Klang Valley. It would be far better if a bus operator that focused on the South Klang Valley / Langat Valley took over the operations of the Cyberjaya DTS, allowing RapidKL to focus on making its operations in the Klang Valley more succesful.
We have often felt that bus operator Nadi Putra, owned by the Putrajaya Corporation, would be ideally placed to operate the DTS service as well as shuttle bus service around Cyberjaya as well as stage bus services around Kajang, Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Dengkil and Sepang. Nadi Putra already has a large fleet (more than 150 buses) that is being used to operate an unsuccessful park and ride service as well as the Putrajaya bus routes.
We believe that if Nadi Putra were tasked to operate bus services in the Langat Valley serving the communities named above, this would be a more efficient and economic use of public transport assets managed by Nadi Putra and RapidKL.
What are your thoughts about the Dedicated Transport Service and the Auditor General’s comments? Please share your ideas in the space below.