TRANSIT took note of two very interesting articles in the Malay Mail detailing initiatives by Prasarana to improve bus service for the OKU community and improve their access to society.
TRANSIT believes that these efforts by Prasarana deserve mention, especially because of the dedication of one particular Prasarana team member – a true Malaysian public transport hero. But before we get to that, let us give you some background on the first article.
RapidMobiliti is a door-to-door service offered by RapidKL. It is based on the successful non-profit Mobiliti transport service for OKU offered in KL and Putrajaya.
Mobiliti runs a door-to-door transport service for wheelchair users with a small fleet of four accessible vans, with hydraulic lifts. Passengers are charged just RM3 per trip. Mobiliti subsidises the cost. So we need donations to help keep the vans on the road.
Persatuan Mobiliti Selangor dan Kuala Lumpur (the Mobility Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor) is a charitable organization approved by the Malaysian Registrar of Societies (ROS) in January 2002.
If you are interested in making a donation, please contact Mobiliti at the following address: Letter Box No 21, Room 9, 4th Floor, Wisma Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, 16 Lorong Utara A, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. We will post a phone number as soon as we can.
Since late 2009 RapidKL and the Mobiliti Association have been working together to implement an expanded Mobiliti service to help cater to more of the OKU community. This is in part because the Mobiliti service has been very successful and it is a challenge to cater to the existing demand.
Ee Ann Nee
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
AFTER years of “neglect”, the disabled community will get a welcome respite in the form of a dedicated van service, set to be launched in the Klang Valley soon.
In an exclusive interview, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd group managing director Shahril Mokhtar told The Malay Mail a trial run for the service had been activated since January.
Three vans have been specially dedicated to providing door-to-door transport for disabled passengers from Petaling, USJ Subang, Subang Jaya and Brickfields to central Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya areas.
Response has been encouraging and Prasarana-owned Rangkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras Sdn Bhd (RapidKL) will roll out at least 10 such vans for this service by year-end.
“We will add more such vehicles to meet the demand,” said Shahril, adding the service would be called the Rapid Mobility OKU managed by Prasarana’s subsidiary RapidKL.
“We have identified several areas for us to improve on during this trial run and hope we can improve the level of service from time to time.”
This is how the service works. A passenger can call up the service in advance to make a pick-up at his house or any other premises, stating the time required. The van would fetch the passenger and make a drop-off at locations within the areas of coverage. Shahril assured this service would be available from the “early morning rush hour period till late evening on weekdays”.
Other details, including the fare, could not be ascertained at Press time, but Shahril said the fare would be “nominal and affordable”.
[TRANSIT: As above, the Mobiliti Assocation’s fare is RM3 per trip and heavily subsidized.]
He also said RapidKL was providing extensive training and exposure to the drivers.
“The van drivers must be trained to handle disabled passengers correctly as we want to provide good service with care by looking at all possible angles before launching the service.”
[TRANSIT: Ok, here is where it gets interesting. Shahril is correct that they are looking at “all possible angles” before launching the service. But the truth is that they have had a long time to look at all possible angles thanks to the rigid rules of the CVLB, which prevented RapidKL from operating the Mobiliti service. And in case you are wondering, Prasarana purchased the vans back in late 2009 or early 2010.]
The Malay Mail understands the disabled-friendly vans are designed with easy access, including for those with wheelchairs, as well as ample space inside.
“A van is more practical for wheelchair users as it will link the community with a seamless transport service,” said Shahril.
[TRANSIT: We would like to say “yes and no” in a comment on Shahril’s statement. Yes, he is correct that a van is more practical in that it offers a quick, reliable and direct door-to-door service – something which RapidKL is not able to offer on their ‘regular’ bus routes. However, the cost of such a direct service is actually very costly and will require subsidy from some source – either donations or government funds. Otherwise the fee for the service would make it inaccessible to the very people who need it the most.]
The vans will supplement the service of 470 new buses which are equipped adequately for the disabled community. The mobility service would augur well with the government’s call for public transport providers and facilities for inproved access as part of the efforts to increase the public transport model 25 per cent by end of next year.
[TRANSIT: Providing improved access for the OKU community (and improved access in general, through better service reaching more areas) through the ‘regular’ bus system is a necessity because the cost of direct door-to-door services. In addition, it helps give the members of the OKU community access to society and social and economic opportunities.]
Two weeks ago, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil met with representatives of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities and revealed that five LRT stations and 12 KTM stations had also been upgraded to provide greater mobility and access for the disabled community.
She also said a disabled friendly bus design guideline for operators would be launched by the Road Transport Department next month.
[TRANSIT: Shahrizat actually launched the services a few months ago on a visit to RapidKL headquarters out in Lembah Subang. Her support for the initiatives to improve public transport access for the OKU communtiy have to be noted.]
We have two stories to tell you about RapidMobiliti. We will tell you the warm, happy story first. Then, we will follow with the frustrating and annoying “oh, no surprise” story. We do hope that you enjoy them both.
TRANSIT has always aimed to work with the government, regulators, and public transport providers to help improve public transport service – first through better laws and regulations, followed by improved management and organization. But it is the actual service that is provided, and the initiatives taken by the operators to provide those services (and the services “above and beyond”) that is deserving of note.
Prasarana has many dedicated team members, from the top on down. They deal with complicated laws and regulations, and ineffective business model (mandated by the government) and the various frustrations associated with that.
Among their dedicated team members is Norzie Pak Wan Chek, who basically serves as community liason between RapidKL/Prasarana and the OKU community. When it comes to dedicated, special employees, we think that Norzie is one of the best and deserving of accolades.
Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to have a “Malaysian Public Transport Hero” Award … but if we give that award the first one would go to Norzie. Stanislaw Anthony (@loneoku) says it best:
Congrats to Pasarana Project Manager Norzie Pak Wan Chek who went all the way to get this project on the move. As you know no project for OKU can be done without OKU For OKU, so she had so many dialog with the OKU to get it right for the OKU ( A Big Thank You) I hope Pasarana will employ an OKU to man the call center for the OKU van so that the pirouette can be for deserving cases first eg. Hospital first then shopping or friend’s visit The Telephone no to the OKU van call center must repeat must be well know to the public as service provider of OKU van by others are not known by the public. Thank You Pasarana Esp. Norzie Stanislaus Anthony PJK (Sgor) loneoku firstname.lastname@example.org H/P 0133415070
Submitted by Loneoku on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011.
So there is the happy story. Now the frustrating & irritating story:
Imagine that a public transport company that is indirectly owned by the government is convinced (whether by insiders or outsiders) to offer a service for a community in need, with a subsidized fare that would make it accessible and affordable. Imagine that this public transport company goes ahead and purchases 3 vans so that they can offer the service.
Now, imagine that the government regulator refuses to issue permits for the service. The reasons given are that the public transport company will charge for services therefore a permit is required, that the service needs to provide consistent terminals and routes, and that the government regulator is not really interested in issuing any permits for this service anyways.
That is not exactly what happened but it gives you a good idea of why the RapidMobiliti vans have been sitting idle at the RapidKL HQ at Lembah Subang since early 2010.
According to CVLB regulations, a private company that wishes to operate a public transport service (and charge fares) must have a permit from the CVLB. Mobiliti Association, being a non-profit organization, did not have to have a permit from the CVLB. And because of this frustrating regulation, many in the OKU community lost a year of potential access to society.
TRANSIT is not employed by the government so sometimes we try to think outside the box. When faced with the RapidMobiliti challenge we offered the following suggestions:
- Provide a free service but place a donation box inside the van – unfortunately (again, thanks to Malaysian law) there are security and insurance issues that would have to be dealt with when money is involved
- Have Mobiliti buy the vans and have RapidKL operate the service
- Just ignore the regulations and let the Minister of Women, Family & Community Development go to bat for you.
Prasarana / RapidKL chose option 4 – wait until the CVLB was replaced by a more sensible SPAD. We do not fault Prasarana for choosing the safer option. After all, they work for/with the government and we are more independent.
But we hope that this gives you an understanding of the level of bureaucracy and rigidity that was found in teh CVLB – and why we are glad that we are finally rid of it (at least in Peninsular Malaysia for now – sorry Sabah & Sarawak).
Ok, with those stories shared, let us also share the point of view of a member of the OKU Community about RapidMobiliti and the ultimate goal of barrier-free, universal access to the ‘regular’ bus system.
A STEP in the right direction, but still just a temporary solution.
Even as disabled rights groups applaud the soon-to-be introduced Rapid Mobility service, some groups have called for a fully accessible bus system for the disabled in the future.
Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled executive director Sia Siew Chin told The Malay Mail the Rapid Mobility Service, while a good move, cannot replace a total, accessible bus service in the long run.
“The door-to-door van service is a temporary way of fulfilling the needs of disabled people but a barrier-free and disabled-friendly transport system, such as the advent of low floor buses, would be the ultimate solution.”
Even so, she said the Rapid Mobility service would certainly bring convenience to the disabled in their daily activities. She said places such as Brickfields, USJ and Subang,where trials for the service were being conducted, would benefit from the service as there were many disabled people living there.
This was reiterated by Damai Disabled Persons Association of Selangor and Federal Territory president V. Murugeswaran.
He stated the service was a good move and indeed pleasant news for the wheelchair community as without mobility, the disabled would be stranded at home.
[TRANSIT: Indeed, without mobility we would all be stranded at home. More importantly, without access we would all be stranded within society – unable to take advantage of our skills and access social and economic opportunities – to grow as individuals into valued, contributing members of society.]
“Drivers must be trained to handle disabled passengers,” he said, adding that the local authorities should also play their role by providing universal design bus stops that cater to the needs of the disabled community.
“We have a long way to catch up but I am happy things are changing compared with five years ago.
“We’re not there yet, rather, we’re in this initial stage. The implementation is slow but we are progressing.”
Association of Women with Disabilities Malaysia president Bathmavathi Krishnan said: “The mobility service will be a vital link from our doorstep to a point where we can board the bus and also connect us from our doorstep to a destination.”
She said Rapid Mobility was a good service and would be more effective than stage buses.
“Comparatively, vans are more practical for wheelchair users as it will link the community to a seamless transport service.”
“Yet, wheelchair users were still waiting for disabled friendly bus services to become more accessible to the community. This would enable them to become a part of this seamless transport service, enabling them to go about their daily lives like everyone else.”
That is the power of access – the OKU community becomes like everyone else – able to be a part of society, to contribute and share and participate and grow. Access is something that has been denied to them – often thanks to bureaucracy and well-meaning people who wish to “take care” of the OKU community rather than providing with the resources and access so they can take care of themselves.
By the way, we have also learned that the proposed Bus Rapid Transit system for the Klang Valley will be fully accessible – with the key feature being level boarding between platforms and buses, helped by automated, bus mounted ramps (if necessary).
We certainly hope that Norzie Pak Wan Chek is promoted to managing access within Prasarana and that she takes charge of the BRT project.
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
PLANS are already in the pipeline by the authorities to provide better access for the disabled group to have inclusive mobility in public transport systems.
A public transport analyst revealed such efforts are being undertaken by the Transport Ministry, Land Public Transport Commission, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd and local councils around the Klang Valley to implement the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya by end of 2013.
The permanent integrated system uses buses or specialised vehicles on dedicated roadways to carry disabled passengers to their destinations while offering the flexibility to meet urban travel demand.
“The disabled community would benefit greatly from the BRT system. It has emerged as one of the primary modes of public transport which is actively being pursued by the government,” said the analyst.
He said the synchronisation of height between platform and bus floor level will help the disabled in wheelchairs as well as mothers with baby strollers gain easier access.
[TRANSIT: Level boarding is not just for the disabled and mothers – it makes it easier and faster for all to board and disembark – allowing stops at bus stations to be shorter and service to be faster. A clear example of the benefits of universal design.]
“The hinged, hydraulic ramp inside the high-capacity, low-floor buses would bridge the horizontal gap. The door width will make it easier for wheelchair and pram users to easily board or alight. It will also help everyone including persons with reduced mobility like senior citizens, families with young children, pregnant women, people with temporary ailments or heavy luggage and persons with diverse disabilities.”
[TRANSIT: Ideally the ramp would not be necessary and the system can be designed for level, close boarding (a small gap of less than 3cm) which will allow fast movement for all.]
Important elements of the BRT system must include buses, bus shelters, street and pedestrian infrastructure to meet universal design features, thereby ensuring a seamless journey from the point of origin to destination.
The BRT is considered innovative with high capacity capabilities at a lower cost that can significantly improve urban mobility in countries such as Mexico, Colombia, China, India and Indonesia.
“The delivery of 470 new RapidKL buses in stages since last month, is seen as the first massive step towards the BRT plan by end 2013,” said the source.
We’re not sure about the last part, since the new buses are there to supplement the existing service rather than for the BRT. And since the new buses will be fully accessible they will help provide access to more people.
But the real challenge will not be the BRT system. The real challenge will be creating a society that is designed around the concept of universal design – in terms of physical structure, social access and economic opportunities.
That society will not be built overnight – but TRANSIT will do our best to be a part of its construction.