KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — Improving the capital city’s bus services should be a pre-requisite to the proposed Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) as the multi-billion rail project is insufficient to solve existing public transport woes, DAP MP Tony Pua said today.
The Petaling Jaya Utara MP expressed disappointment with MRT regulator, Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), for having written off a bus transit system to improve public transportation, which he claimed was “critical” to ensure the optimality of the rail project.
“A plan for the intensification of bus services should precede the implementation of the MRT mega-project for two reasons.
“Firstly, it will be faster to increase the number of buses within a short period of time, to immediately provide relief to both traffic congestion and reducing the cost of living for city dwellers,” the DAP national publicity secretary said in a press conference here.
Pua added that improving the bus transit system would also be significantly cheaper than the MRT project, the project proponents of which MMC-Gamuda had estimated will cost at least RM36 billion.
“Assuming each bus costs RM600,000, flooding the Klang Valley with an additional 3,000 buses will only cost RM1.8 billion, a tiny fraction of the bill for the MRT,” he said.
As such, Pua said SPAD should provide a blueprint for Klang Valley bus services as an adjunct to the MRT blueprint to “complete” the public transport equation.
This, he added, should be made a part of the regulator’s efforts to obtain public feedback on the proposed MRT project.
“Otherwise, the risk is, Malaysians are being presented with a massive proposal which may fail to achieve its lofty goals of transforming our public transport landscape,” he said.
Pua was commenting on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the MRT project where project consultants from ERE Consulting Group ruled out an alternate bus transport system in place of the MRT.
The consultancy argued that a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system would not be able to meet the MRT’s standards of ferrying 30,000 or up to 40,000 passengers per hour per direction (PPHPD).
Pua agreed with the Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit (Transit) that the BRT system should be implemented as a cheaper solution to the country’s public transport woes.
He cited Singapore’s bus system as an example, pointing out that the daily ridership in the city state’s MRT amounted to some 1.95 million, which is only 63.2 per cent to that of its bus ridership, which totals up to 3.09 million.
“This is despite the fact that Singapore has a much more extensive MRT network of 130km with 79 stations.
“It also leads to the conclusion that Singapore has a world-class public transport system precisely because of prominence and role which buses play, as both as alternative and a complement to the MRT system,” he said.
In the first phase of its three-line proposal, the Klang Valley MRT will have 35 stations along its 51km line that stretches from Sungai Buloh to Kajang, with 13 proposed park-and-ride stations and four interchanges.
Eight of the stations will be underground as 9.5km of the line will be built beneath the capital city. Groundwork for the MRT is due to start this July 16 and will be completed in 2016.
“The situation is no different from Hong Kong which has 212km of MTR and rail services with 150 stations ferrying an average of 3.76 million passengers a day,” said Pua.
He pointed out that despite the “efficient” system in Hong Kong, the island state also has an extensive bus service network dominated by three bus companies which serves a similar number of passengers daily.
The largest company, he added, the Kowloon Motor Bus Company, serves an average of 2.7 million passengers daily.
“Hence, it is beyond doubt that in a holistic land public transportation plan, bus services form one of two critical pillars in any successful public transport model and its contribution cannot be under-estimated,” he said.
Pua also pointed out that at present, RapidKL, which is the main operator for bus services in the Klang Valley, only has about 800 buses serving a six million population in an area of 2,900 square kilometres.
“This is a far cry from Singapore which has more than 3,300 buses servicing a five million population in a country the size of 482 square kilometres or Hong Kong, which has more than 5,500 buses servicing a seven million population within an area 1,095 square kilometres,” he said.
The Malaysian Insider quoted Transit chairman, Muhammad Zulkarnain Hamzah as saying on Monday that a well-developed BRT should be implemented before the government embarks on the more expensive MRT.
He also pointed out the cost to construct one kilometre of an underground MRT rail could amount to RM1 billion while one kilometre of a BRT line would only cost up to RM20 million.
But in the EIA, released on February 14, ERE had noted that such a system was merely a viable “intermediate” solution to be developed in places where there is low public transport modal share.
A BRT requires dedicated lanes on roadways to enable speedy and uninterrupted travel for passengers using the system’s buses.
Transit, however, rebutted in a statement today based on the MRT’s fleet size and passenger capacity, the rail system itself would not be able to achieve its 40,000 PPHPD target.
Instead, the group noted that even if all 58 carriages were to ply the 90-minute route from Sungai Buloh to Kajang (SBK), the first line in the proposed three-line project, the system would only achieve 24,000 PPHPD.
Even then, it said that this was unlikely, as at least 10 per cent of the fleet should be reserved as spare, meaning that only 52 or 53 trains would be available for use.
The MRT system entry point project identified for the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley National Key Economic Area (NKEA) and aims to increase public transport modal share from 18 per cent to 40 per cent by 2020.
Initial estimates have put the MRT’s cost at a whopping RM36.6 billion, making it one of the most expensive construction projects every undertaken by the Malaysian government.
With the 40 per cent public transport modal share, the government hopes that at least four million trips of the estimated total of 10 million are made via public transportation.
The remaining six million trips will continue to be made via private vehicles.
In the EIA, it was also explained that the mode share for rail use in the Klang Valley was expected to increase five-fold by 2020 from 400,000 trips per day in 2009 to two million trips in 2020.
The SBK line is estimated to have a daily ridership of 442,000 passengers in its opening year, expected to be in 2016.
The EIA is up for public viewing until March 15 at all Department of Environment (DOE) offices nationwide and several public libraries.
The SBK alignment map is also up for public viewing until May 14 at seven locations across the city.
They are Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Petaling Jaya City Council, Shah Alam City Council, Selayang Municipal Council, Kajang Municipal Council as well as the Bangsar LRT station and the SPAD office in Menara Dayabumi.
The public can provide their feedback on the project via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the SPAD toll-free line at 1-800-82-6868.