Why must public transport users make a ‘leap of faith’ all the time?

TRANSIT took note of this article in the NST which discusses the challenges that bus users often face in Malaysia – congestion and unsafe travel.

In this specific case, the article is referring to passengers who have to disembark from buses into “live” lanes, avoiding other traffic, motorcycles, etc.

According to the NST, "passengers are forced to climb on or off the bus in the middle of the road as the bus stops are hogged by parked cars." TRANSIT: It's not always true. Do you see any parked cars this time? Sometimes the reason is unprofessional drivers.

The usual reasons are congestion, including cars parked at bus stops or layby lanes but sometimes the reason is really unprofessional drivers and management not caring (or caring but not being able to do much).

Unfortunately, our fractured public transport system does not encourage the efficient management of public transport – meaning that these issues remain unresolved to this day.

It is funny that some people (often with good intentions) believe that people need to have more faith in the public transport system and demonstrate this by taking the bus – but do not call for more efforts from the operators & other stakeholders to improve the quality & professionalism of the service.

In other words, they want public transport users to take a leap of faith, without expecting or asking for any improvements & actions from the government & operators. Well, that is just not good enough.

Leap of Faith (NST)

14 July 2011

Commuters risk their lives alighting from buses that stop in the middle of the road instead of at the bus stop

Passengers should only board or alight at the bus stops for their own safety. Image courtesy of NST. TRANSIT: That assumes that the bus comes close to the bus stop. This one hasn't though there is no traffic. What is the reason for this?

KUALA LUMPUR: Bus passengers are disembarking in the middle of the road because buses are prevented from stopping at the bus stops by motorists using the stops as their personal pick and drop-off points.

Cars were seen stopping to pick up or drop off passengers at the bus stop at the Bangsar LRT station during the evening rush hour. Some left quickly but some drivers parked there to wait, showing complete disregard for the many buses waiting to stop there.

[TRANSIT: Poor planning and enforcement. DBKL needs to step up here. But it would be much better if there was organized management of public transport rather than a silo mentality.]

Impatient bus passengers chose to alight at the spot where the buses were stuck, sticking their heads out of the door to check for oncoming motorcycles before stepping off. Some got off without remembering or bothering to see if it was safe to do so.

The situation was worse at the busy KL Sentral bus stop in Jalan Tun Sambanthan 4, where many Metro and Rapid KL buses plying Puchong, Subang Jaya, Taman Medan, Pantai Hillpark and Bangsar stop, sometimes in quick succession of one another and at times overlapping. Bus drivers were making passengers board and disembark some distance away from the bus stop, which was occupied by cars waiting to pick up passengers.

[TRANSIT: One would think that a major stop like Jalan Tun Sambanthan opposite KL Sentral would get the regular attention from DBKL & SPAD enforcement people.]

It is particularly dangerous for the visually impaired, who have to alight without being able to check for oncoming vehicles.

Chee Seng Yok, who is blind, says he is usually helped on or off the bus by kind folk. Image courtesy of NST

Chee Seng Yok, 54, a blind man working in Brickfields, said he was not aware of the danger as he was usually helped on or off the bus by helpful folk.

“Nevertheless, I am always cautious and aware of my surroundings. I listen to the sounds around me,” he said.

A 40-year-old passenger, who wished to be known as Anna, said she was afraid when buses stop on the road as it was dangerous for passengers to climb on or off.

“But it is happening everywhere now, and we have no choice but to board or get off the bus wherever it stops,” she said.

Bus drivers were also seen abruptly stopping in the middle of the road to allow late passengers running after the bus to climb aboard.

This endangers the safety of the passengers and other motorists, who have to apply the emergency brakes to avoid crashing into the bus.

Baserol Wajiran, 35, however, does not think it is dangerous to board the bus in such a manner as long as one is alert.

“For most people, it is more important to catch the bus so that they can reach their destination on time.”

[TRANSIT: What about all the passengers who managed to get onto the bus on time? Their time & safety & comfort is valuable as well.]

A bus driver said it was usually at peak hours that they stopped in the middle of the road as it was difficult to get back into the moving lane after stopping at the bus stop at the roadside.

TRANSIT Says:

We always wonder how long it is going to take for the government to be able to resolve these “small” issues with public transport. Well, some people consider them small, but TRANSIT sees them as significant.

Our reasoning is simple – putting passengers down into the street, not stopping properly at bus stops, stopping for careless passengers etc are all signs of unprofessional behaviour.

And as the article shows, it is not just the bus operators and drivers, but also the passengers who act in  a manner that is heedless of their own safety.

But the fundamental problems that TRANSIT has are not really with the behaviour of drivers & passengers – because we know that they do what they do because they can get away with it.

Our problem is with the government, with SPAD, with our local government and their enforcement agencies, and all the people who talk about improving public transport but for some reason, appear to only be focused on increasing the number of buses & building MRT / LRT lines.

The majority of public transport trips begin and end with a bus – and all the stakeholders need to understand that this is important. Bus passengers are not second-class public transport users who’s safety is less important.

The big question is, what is going to be done about this? We at TRANSIT restate our wish for the DBKL Urban Transport Department, SPAD, Federal Territories & Urban Wellbeing Ministry and other stakeholders to get together and create a local public transport organizing authority (call it RapidKL for RAngkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras KL or Rapid Integrated Transport Network KL).

This local public transport authority would focus on improving the quality of bus services through improvements to bus stops, bus lanes & bus hub infrastructure (among other things) as well as encouragement & incentives to improve the quality of service.

The solution that TRANSIT is suggesting is not a complicated one. But what is necessary is for the stakeholders to get together and figure out “who does what” when it comes to public transport … and then get it done.

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3 thoughts on “Why must public transport users make a ‘leap of faith’ all the time?”

  1. I really appreciate your effort in highlighting issues like this. We deserve high quality services from the bus services. Are we not first class citizens who deserve first call services with first class facilities and infrastructures.

    I recall one incident in Perth City WA, where i wanted to board the free CAT bus with my small child strapped in the baby stroller. As the bus approached the stop, i was hurrying to push the stroller in when the doors opened. The lady bus driver did not allow me to board yet. She wanted to really get close to the kerbside first, then lowered the bus height by tilting the bus closer to the kerb by some sort of adjustable suspension control, then only allowed me to board and wheel in the baby stroller. The bus did not moved yet, the driver was watching me until i am safely seated with the stroller secured. I did not see any annoying faces by the passengers already in the bus nor the people queuing at the bus stop behind me. I guess i was the only one trying to hurry up that day.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Yes, these are the ‘little issues’ that don’t get much attention from the operators & government but these are the ones that frustrate and discourage public transport users the most.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

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