Technology Update: One ticket for all stations (except Komuter)

TRANSIT took note of this article at the end of last month and have spent the past week trying to get more information about the plans for the new LRT + Monorail ticketing system.

Unfortunately, the hoped-for integration of the KTM Komuter and LRT system (promised as one of the NKEAs) is not expected to happen soon – especially with KTMB designing their own separate ticketing system, giving the tender to an allegedly “inexperienced & underqualified” company, and then ignoring the MACC investigation (shockingly, with support from the Minister of Transport)!

One ticket for all stations (Malay Mail)
Ampang and Kelana Jaya LRT lines, monorail to introduce integrated network by year-end
Shahrim Tamrin
Thursday, February 24th, 2011 12:31:00

KUALA LUMPUR: Seamless travel for LRT and monorail commuters is on the cards.

Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd is set to increase the level of comfort for passengers with improved accessibility and hassle-free connections between key LRT and monorail stations around the city.

[TRANSIT: Is this how things are going to be? KTMB & Prasarana, sister-holding companies owned by the Finance Ministry (Minister of Finance Inc), competing (sort-of) with each other, until a benevolent government forces a merger – like in Hong Kong?]

Prasarana group managing director Shahril Mokhtar told The Malay Mail work was underway to integrate the Masjid Jamek transit stations (Ampang and Kelana Jaya LRT services) as well as the Titiwangsa and Hang Tuah monorail stations. This was in line with the introduction of the new Automatic Fare Collection System (AFC).

“By the end of this year, commuters will be able to experience seamless journeys at several integrated stations without having to go through the hassle of buying different tickets or going through turnstiles to change rail services.

[TRANSIT: For most of the trips there will be little inconvenience and this is good news overall.]

“The integration of the Titiwangsa and Hang Tuah monorail stations is targeted for completion by the second quarter and the year-end respectively,” he said.

“For example, if a passenger intends to go to Bukit Jalil from Wangsa Maju LRT station, he can buy a ticket for Bukit Jalil at Wangsa Maju station.

Once he gets down at the underground Masjid Jamek station, he won’t need to pass through the turnstile or line up to buy another ticket at the Masjid Jamek transit station as is the current practice.

[TRANSIT: But what if, for some reason, a passenger decides that he or she wants to make their connection from AMG to KLJ using the MRL (say, from Hang Tuah to Bukit Nanas/Dang Wangi] – will the ticketing system be able to accommodate that? Or do we need a new Monorail Station north of Dang Wangi LRT station (actually, not a bad idea).]

“There will be a special lane for passengers using this AFC system at Masjid Jamek station, where commuters will be directed to another platform. Those who board the train from Wangsa Maju, will only need to insert the ticket when exiting at Bukit Jalil. Same goes with a passenger from the Bukit Bintang Monorail station who wish to go to the Maluri station.

“Just one ticket for a hassle-free journey with special access to change trains at the Hang Tuah integrated station for Monorail and Ampang line stations.”

The Malay Mail understands a RM9 million budget has been allocated for the Masjid Jamek station, to include a common concourse for the Kelana Jaya line and Ampang line, which means travellers do not have to go through different gates to enter the two service lines.

For the Titiwangsa LRT station, RM5 million would be spent on its integration that would involve the Ampang line and KL Monorail, along with an additional three lifts and chairlifts at the monorail station.

Shahril said Prasarana had set its sights on the move for quite some time.

“People have been asking for this facility for many years and we are working hard to improve in this area.

“The AFC system, integration of stations and cashless card usage like Touch ‘n Go are all part of Prasarana’s objective to encourage the public to use public transport. We are also moving towards assisting the government to achieve the target of 25 per cent public transport model share by the end of next year.”

TRANSIT Says:

We are happy to hear this news as, overall, convenience will be increased with the integration of fare media, a long-complained about issue in Malaysia.

But one wonders, what will Prasarana do with the revenue lost from the “starting fares” which they have made us pay when switching lines for the past 9 years? Consider the value of the starting fare, from RM0.80-Rm1 for each and every connection made!

By the way, since we miss KLCommuter so much, we have to enclose his entire post on the issue of starting fares, just to remind you of the problems public transport users have been facing since the 2nd LRT opened in 1998.

Fair fares (klcommuter)
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

With the fragmentation of the rail networks, I feel that commuters, especially those who need to use more than one line to complete a journey are most unfairly penalized.

Most obviously commuters are penalized when they have to walk up and down numerous flights of stairs and escalators (and cross main roads) just to reach another platform. Just think Masjid Jamek or KL Sentral Monorail. Argh.

Then there is also the pain of queuing (aiyoh, how to spell?) and buying tickets all over again. This has been partly solved with Touch ‘n Go being available systemwide (with the exception of the ERL I think). But there’s still plenty to be desired of.

Ok. Even if they fix all these shortcomings mentioned above, there is still one major disincentive that hasn’t and will need to be rectified soon.

It is regarding the “starting fare”, this fixed-fee that ALL rail operators impose on users. For example, when you hop on the Kelana Jaya Line, you have to pay at least RM0.70 or RM1.00 for the shortest journey you make, that is a one-station journey. (I’m not sure whether you’ll be charged when you enter a station and leave from the same one. Any TnG volunteers? Go in and use the toilet and exit?)

Similarly, on the Ampang/Sri Petaling, that fare is RM0.70, RM1.00 and RM1.20. On the Monorail, it is RM1.20 (see how expensive KL Monorail is). For the Komuter, it is RM1.00.

Kelana Jaya line fare table. Image courtesy of RapidKL.

Kelana Jaya line

Ampang Line fare table. Image courtesy of RapidKL.

Sri Petaling and Ampang Line [TRANSIT: These lines are now referred to as the Ampang Line – probably since the depot is located in Ampang]

KL Monorail fare table. Image courtesy of RapidKL.

KL Monorail

And KTM Komuter

So, everytime a commuter needs to travel through more than one line, he/she has to pay this “starting fare” all over again, even though technically he/she has only made only one journey.

(You see, that’s why I don’t really believe these Malaysian public transport statistics half the time. After they count dunno how many thousand people on the LRTs and another how many thousand on the Komuter and then present total usage, have they accounted for this double counting? Hell, do they even account for the fact that people usually take 2 journeys, one there and one back? Or that passengers also need to hop on buses to get to the rail stations?)

I would like to suggest that all the operators come together and agree on a consolidated, system-wide fare structure that eliminates all these “starting fares”. I feel that passengers should only pay for one “starting fare” for every one journey. A journey being defined as travel from one train station to another. Intermediate stops and changes shouldn’t be counted.

To illustrate this stupidity, let’s consider a journey from Pasar Seni to Bandaraya. One’s on the Kelana Jaya line, the other on the Ampang/Sri Petaling. A 1.6km journey by road and the LRTs.

Pasar Seni to Masjid Jamek – RM1.00
Masjid Jamek to Bandaraya – RM1.20

That’s two-freaking-ringgit-twenty-sen for a 2 station journey! (Even more shockingly, both lines come under the same operator Rapid KL).

How about the transport operators introduce something like this:

Pasar Seni to Masjid Jamek – RM1.00 (let them keep the starting fare)
Masjid Jamek to Bandaraya – RM0.40 (a “fair incremental fare”, although I think RM0.20 should suffice)

There are two problems with this, given the current state of affairs.

First of all is the physical. All these lines are physically disconnected (and involve walking up and down stairs and escalators). It’s going to be bloody expensive and near impossible to separate passengers transfering from the Kelana Jaya line to the Sri Petaling / Ampang one. New escalators, stairs and tunnels have to be built. And looking at the Masjid Jamek geography, that is impossible, unless we want to cause more floods?

Secondly, it is a technological problem. With manual tickets, this is impossible, unless we close one more eye to let fare dodgers in. Magnetic tickets also pose another problem as I believe that all systems run different ticketing systems. Even between Sri Petaling / Ampang and Kelana Jaya. Unlimited passes aren’t a problem. Probably the Touch ‘n Go can be programmed to allow people to exit a platform, take another flight of escalators, and hop onto another platfrom, without charging the “starting fare” again.

Thirdly, it is a business problem. This is probably the toughest. Looking at the fare structures, you can see that operators collect most of their revenue from this “starting fare”. The maximum fares on the LRTs and Monorail range from around RM2.50 to RM2.80. Compare that with their “starting fares” of RM0.70 to RM1.20. Slightly less than half of their single ticket revenue comes from this unfair fare.

The solutions…

I think trying to physically separate exiting passengers from those changing lines is going to be expensive and impossible. Blame it on the short sighted, greedy and corrupt planners and implementers of the past. But where do we go from here? I think we have to accept that not very much physical integration can be added. Maybe more covered walkways and escalators. But separating this passenger traffic, hmmm… not at most interchanges.

Technologically, I would advocate scrapping all forms of manual tickets. I have argued before why we should do away with them here and here. As for magnetic tickets, we should also do away with them because they are not cross compatible across systems. Stored value electronic cards like the Touch ‘n Go meanwhile, I believe, is capable of going round this problem. How about allowing passengers that exit interchanges enter another system in the vicinity (e.g. the Masjid Jameks, Bukit Nenas – Dang Wangi, Titiwangsas, Bank Negara – Bandaraya, KL Sentral)
within a given time limit. Maybe 5 minutes for inside Sentral, 10 minutes for more physically challenging like Bandaraya – Bank Negara and Masjid Jamek, and 15 minutes for the near impossible like KL Sentral Monorail? If they re-enter the system within that specified time, using the same ticket, i.e. TnG, let all that be counted as only one journey
and add only the fare increment without charging the “starting fare” again.

The business solution? I have a few:

Come up with a revenue sharing scheme. Have a committee consisting of the operators and the transport authorities to decide how to split the “starting fare”.
Transfer ownership of supporting infrastructure (stations, ticketing services, other infrastructure such as bus stops, overhead bridges, shops) to the main transport authority, while transport operators only manage transport operations (i.e. moving the trains around). “Starting fare” goes to transport authority to maintain these supporting infrastructure while incremental fares go to transport operators. This is like the division between Airlines and Airport Operators.
Have other transport operators transfer management of ticketing, marketing and support services to Rapid KL. Let Rapid KL be sole seller of tickets on all systems, under the Rapid KL badge. Other operators run operations in exchange of annual fee from Rapid KL. Like here. Problem of “starting fare” non-existent. Furthermore, issue of revenue distribution with unlimited passes will be almost non-existent too.
Abolish starting fares altogether. But operators will argue for a steeper fare curve to compensate lost revenue. That means fare increments between stations would be higher, although there would be no “starting fare” to begin with (no pun).

Personally, I would advocate solution 3. Consistency of service (a good one that is) can be managed better. Subsidisation of services (if at all) would also be easier managed. And furthermore, it is ala PFI (not that I advocate it).

At any rate, the overall system fare structure has to be re-examined as soon as possible.

Summarizing…

An example of the current fare system showing starting fares. Image courtesy of KL Commuter.

Ideal fare structure (example) without "starting fares". Image courtesy of KL Commuter.

The real 'fare integration' situation, using examples. Image courtesy of KL Commuter.

[TRANSIT: Although the Automatic Fare Collection system and the upgrades to the LRT-LRT and LRT-Monorail interchanges (and what about future LRT-MRT and MRT-Monorail and LRT-MRT-Monorail) are a massive improvement over the mess that exists now, just look at what could have been – with an integrated, open, public consultation and planning process.]

* even more IDEALLY better still allow train changes at the same platform, like Singapore’s City Hall and Raffle’s Place.
** with electronic stored value cards like TnG, there won’t even be a need to purchase tickets (or surrendering them at the end of the journey). You will just need to validate them before, after and in-between journeys.

TRANSIT Says:

The upcoming improvements towards better physical integration and fare integration of our rail lines are noted and appreciated, but there is still a lot that needs to be done.

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7 thoughts on “Technology Update: One ticket for all stations (except Komuter)”

  1. Why can’t there be any integration between KTMB Komuter with RAPID KL??? I think this is another profit (crony) interest issue huh??

  2. (I’m not sure whether you’ll be charged when you enter a station and leave from the same one. Any TnG volunteers? Go in and use the toilet and exit?)..

    FYI I did it couple of times (e.g. need to use toilet)…you’re not charged at all on your TnG card.

  3. In japan, JR lines didn’t have common ticket with other private/municipal lines..

    At the integrated station, you have to buy a new ticket and use both JR and private/municipal in order to exit JR line and enter private/municipal line by using the same turnstile/fare gate.

  4. @Tun

    We are not talking about high speed train now, we are talking about normal komuter train. I took a train from Edinburgh to London, once I get out from the train station, I can use the SAME TICKET to take all London buses and Underground/The Tube. I don’t have to repurchase the ticket at all. Most JR Lines are high speed train now. So it is a total different story. Besides, Tokyo Metro ticket is also applicable at Yokohama Subway, vice versa.

  5. With so many changes, i hope there would be proper inform the public when they implement it. i think i start to “lost” in the dark.

    ANd i hope the changes is for the good and not create more problems….do they do any simulation before the actually enforce the changes?

    1. @Wong

      Thanks for your comment. We are happy to see that some action is being taken, with the introduction of new ticket vending machines into some LRT stations taking place.

      Our issue is the timeline:

      LRT-LRT: 2011
      LRT-Monorail: 2012
      Rail-Bus: 2013
      RapidKL – Komuter: 2014

      We really believe that the system can be improved faster and that RapidKL & KTMB can work together to have it done by 2012, not 2014.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

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