Meanwhile in JB, urban buses are moved out of the city centre starting May 1

TRANSIT took note of the following article describing changes to bus service in Johor Baru, with a new “no pick up” order for Jalan Wong Ah Fook, diversion of urban stage buses to Larkin Sentral, and a new free shuttle bus connecting the two areas.

Commuters get short end of stick

(NST JOHOR, 1 May 2014)

JOHOR Baru City Council has come up with a solution to the the problem of traffic congestion in Jalan Wong Ah Fook, which it believes is caused by the long queue of stage buses waiting for passengers.

The council recently announced that effective May 1, all stage buses plying the northwest route, which is basically the Skudai corridor, may only drop off passengers by the road. They will not be allowed to pick up passengers.

The buses, which serve major housing estates such as Taman Perling, Taman Ungku Tun Aminah, Taman Bukit Indah, Taman Universiti, and even Kulai, will terminate their journeys at Larkin Sentral, about six kilometres away. At present, they end their journey in Jalan Wong Ah Fook.

For those who need to catch the bus, the council has prepared free shuttle bus services to pick them up in Jalan Wong Ah Fook and drop them off at Larkin Sentral free of charge. The shuttle service runs every 10 minutes, 6am to 11pm daily.

It seems to be a good move to ease traffic flow — at the expense of the passengers. [TRANSIT: It’s not as if things were good for bus passengers who had to sit on buses waiting for them to become sardine-packed before moving.]

The bus drivers usually stop to wait for passenger in the bus lane in Jalan Wong Ah Fook. Some wait there for up to 30 minutes for the bus to be packed like a can of sardines before they consider it worth their time to move. [TRANSIT: The issue here is the privatized bus operations without a local public transport organizing authority. This gives drivers an incentive to wait and pack their buses.]

These drivers are treating the lane more like a bus terminal than a bus lane.
The traffic police will come by every now and then to chase them away or even issue them summonses. As a deterrent, this does not work, as the traffic police are not stationed there all the time. Once the cat leaves, the rats are out again.

Instead of addressing the problem by regularly deploying traffic police along the road, the council prefers to implement the new and costly “no boarding” ruling. [TRANSIT: The author forgets that there is also a cost to putting traffic police in place.]

Summonses or compound fines are revenue for the traffic police. If traffic police are stationed at the bus lanes, I am sure bus drivers will know what not to do, if they know what’s good for them. The problem will be solved sooner or later. [TRANSIT: The real problem is the structural issues in the bus industry which need to be changed first before any enforcement exercises will be effective.]

Employing shuttle services will incur additional costs, and I doubt if the council has the expertise to run such a service.

I foresee a long queue waiting to rush into the incoming shuttle buses during peak hours. A mess is certainly in the making. [TRANSIT: Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the frequency and reliability of the shuttle buses. 10 minutes is not really good enough and bus lanes are needed.]

Now, how prepared is Larkin Sentral to accommodate these additional buses to serve the northwest route?

Already, the bus terminal is packed to capacity during peak hours. The new policy will only sweep the problem 6km away from Jalan Wong Ah Fook to Larkin Sentral. [TRANSIT: Unfortunately this is the normal response to transportation issues…ignore the structural problems…bad planning, bad management and bad policy…and cronyism…and sweep the problem down the road.]

If the suggestion for the regular deployment of traffic police at the bus lanes is not good enough, how about allowing the stage buses to drop off passengers in Jalan Wong Ah Fook and to pick up passengers only in Jalan Tun Razak (near the old KTM station). This will also eliminate the traffic problem in Jalan Wong Ah Fook.

The new policy, as it is, will greatly inconvenience the passengers.
[TRANSIT: The current situation isn’t exactly all rosy and sweet either.]

Before introducing a policy of this nature, it would be nice if the council consulted the passengers instead of owners of posh vehicles, who till this day cannot figure out why people are taking the public buses.

TRANSIT Says:

The commentary about the change to bus services in Johor Baru reflects the structural challenges that TRANSIT has been facing since this group was created. It is obvious that there is a fundamental lack of understanding about the issues that are creating this congestion situation in JB. Calls for enforcement are great but they only treat the visible symptoms instead of curing the underlying problems.

As you may have noted from our recent post on Haphazard Halts, the problems we see on our roads…the buses stopping here, there and everywhere, the confusion about bus stop locations and services, the lack of information shared with the public, etc….are all symptoms of transit policy that is poorly designed, poorly implemented and not reflective of the needs of public transport users.

And in the absence of good public transport policy (implemented by a local or regional public transport organizing authority that would include all stakeholders and plan, organize and manage public transport services), we end up seeing more of the same…attempts to push buses out of our city centres rather than the cars which occupy so much more space.

Johor Baru council has done something interesting by offering a free shuttle bus service to connect passengers to their buses at Larkin Sentral. The problem is that this adds another layer of complexity to an already confusing public transport system. Without the proper information delivery, consumers will not know how things are changing and will essentially be caught off guard.

This kind of confusion is what drives public transport users away from public transport and towards private cars and motorcycles.

The Iskandar Development Region has seen some positive changes in the introduction of Perbadanan Pengangkutan Awam Iskandar Malaysia (Iskandar Malaysia Public Transportation Corporation)…the only local public transport organizing authority in Malaysia…and the TransIskandar bus service (a bus service provided by 3 private companies contracted to Perbadanan PAIM). TRANSIT has also recently learned that Johor MB Khaled Nordin has tasked Perbadanan PAIM with upgrading TransIskandar and creating and managing a state-wide public transport organizing authority.

If this Perbadanan PAJ [Note: the name is yet to be determined] wants to start off on the right page (joke) they need to implement a policy that includes all stakeholders and tackles the weaknesses in public transport…the ‘pajak’ system, the practice of filling up buses before moving (and using public streets as de facto bus terminals) and especially the lack of information that discourages public transport users.

A more efficient use of infrastructure (like the poorly – designed JB Sentral, which, like KL Sentral has no proper bus terminal…some transport hub!) is also necessary. Unfortunately we do not know at this time what kind of authority this new Perbadanan PAJ will actually have so we hope to see improvements.

In the meantime TRANSIT hopes that the new shuttle bus services will be supported by strong information delivery and they will be available at frequencies better than the 10 minutes promised (realistically a shuttle bus should be available every 5 minutes)…and that means bus lanes and bus lane enforcement in both directions. We would rather see a commitment to the shuttle bus service than for the JB Council to go back on their plan because of protests…something we have seen all too often in Malaysia..instead of dealing with the structural weaknesses in the plan.

Dealing with the structural problems within the public transport industry itself is an ongoing challenge that requires commitment from alk stakeholders…and effort at all levels.

TRANSIT appreciates your thoughts and feedback. You can also follow Trans Iskandar and Perbadanan PAIM at the following places

Perbadanan PAIM
@PerbadananPAIM on Twitter
@gadaffiemohd (en. Gadaffie is the man with the plan at Perbadanan PAIM)
TransIskandar (see PAIM website)
@TransIskandar on Twitter

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