KL Public Transport System

If there is an award for an experienced  tour guide, I am quite certain I would qualify for it. I have never worked with a travel agent or any firm in the tourism industry, but for a long time I have faithfully served my family as a tour guide for my wife and children  travelling in many parts of the world. For a long time since I got married and started a family  in the  seventies, I have done just that, bringing my family on holidays on numerous occasions.

Our last trip was to Singapore, a small but a neat city state which actually  needs no  introduction to us Malaysians.  Yes, all  of us know Singapore and have some ideas of it depending on ones  own interest. If you uphold  a clean and orderly system, you will like it to your utmost, if you are a young man looking for a better paying job, you will definitely try your luck there, but if you  have strong  democratic ideals, believing in fair election, western values such as human rights, you may dislike this city state. If you are a Malay, you may like to  visit it as a tourist,  but definitely not to live there as a Singaporean. Most Malays I met often grumbled  how unfairly  they have been treated in  the Chinese dominated Singaporean  society.

After  spending five days enjoying our tour of a state, which I can describe as  seamless with first class public transportation system, world class tourism sites and infrastucture, world class education system,   and very clean environment, it left no doubt  in my mind what a developed and industrialised state should look like. On the last day,  we left for our  own capital city, the pride of our nation, ie. Kuala Lumpur.

As in other cities, I often chose to usher my family through the public transportaion system. Not that I enjoyed every moment of it, but more  because I like to  walk and  burn up excess calories. I always have to persuade my family to follow suit, which was often accepted with open heart  by my daughter, but  with reluctance by others.

Negotiating our ways  through the KL Public transportation system is quite a nightmare, although I have observed marked improvements recently. I noticed the common and new entry and exit counters to the stations are already in place. The system makes  use of tokens which should be accepted by the entry and exit machine counters at all stations, be it Monorail, PUTRA or STAR lines or the public buses. This is the way it works in Singapore. So I confidently walked to a computerised ticketing machine to buy  the necessary tokens costing RM2.40 each, for a one way trip  from Imbi Station to Plaza Rakyat, transitting  at the Hang Tuah Station.

To my surprise as  we reached Hang Tuah  I had  to exit the station,  could only drop my token (no other option) into the machine slot, which read it but retained it although my journey was’t complete yet. I checked with  somebody on duty there who  confirmed that my money could not be retrieved. He didn’t even seem to realise, or didn’t care,  that the system was faulty. I am still wondering whether those machines installed at the stations in fact  bear incomplete specifications, or rather on a positive note,  the stations which are now being upgraded will have a simpler layout upon completion, as in Singapore, where a passenger needs not have to exit the station while on transit.

In Singapore, the transit passenger needs not leave the interchange station, meaning that he only needs to interact with the machine twice, first  upon entering the starting station and later, upon leaving the final destination station. Very simple. He doesn’t even have to walk far to the next train, very often it is  only boarded on the opposite side of the same platform. Whatever the case,  every transfer happens within the same building.

Nevertheless, we continued with our trip to our final destination Plaza Rakyat. From there we took a short walk  to the brand new and modern PuduRaya bus terminal. It was a pleasant and safe walk  through a covered walkway which lead direct to the terminal building. Admittedly, this part of the  of the trip including  the transit  station and the City bus terminal was up to my expectation.

Actually simple and flawless commuter station layout is common in large cities in western countries,  particularly in the Paris Subway,  although in London, their Underground Transport System is  rather out dated  and quite difficult for tourists  to negotiate during rush hours.

Similarly other cities have efficient underground rail  or bus services. Perth provides free bus service in the city central area and Gold Coast has a convenient and frequent public  bus service to tourist destinations. In fact cities like Brussels in Belgium already had integrated public transportation system of rail, underground and bus service since many decades ago.

Back in Kuala Lumpur, one cannot help but notice  long queues at the interchange stations, both at the automatic ticketing  machine and at the manned  ticketing counters. The automatic ticketing machine is another problem area. They are not always in tip top conditions and don’t seem to accept RM 5 and RM 10 notes.

These phenomena are  not seen in Singapore even during peak hours  as  almost all the commuters there seem to  use season tickets, making it easier for visitors like me to buy my tickets as well as help  facilitate a  smooth  flow of commuters. This is something  the administrators and planners at the KL transit system should take notice.

Once on board the LRT or the Monorail one has to face the inconvenience of overcrowded carriage, especially during peak hours. It is difficult to understand why it is so difficult to to add more carriages  or lengthen the existing carriages so as to provide more convenience to the public. While the planned MRT system may be welcome, the  upgrading of the existing system is more urgent.  For sure these would cost nothing more than a fraction of the cost of MRT  system which is being planned now.

As  tourists travelling on our own, I find it easy to choose and get to any tourism destination in Singapore. First, there are plenty of useful tourism brochures available at any hotel counter, even at small hotels. The brochures provide all the necesary information including attractions details,  entry ticket prices and how to get there. I decided to bring my family to The Singapore Science Centre and boarded MRT from a station close to our hotel at Orchard Road. At the destination station, I immediately noticed a large interchange bus station. I immediately knew which bus to take as I noted it earlier in the  tourism brochure. However, I did not bother to take a bus as I managed to persuade my family to just walk to the  site, which is not that far from the station.

Actually there are a few major bus interchange  stations  such as this one  at strategic locations all over Singapore,  and these are connected to the MRT system, serving as transit points  between residential areas, work places, shopping centres, recreation and tourist centres and the city centre.

After nine days away on holiday, we are back in our home town Kuching, a beautiful, well lanscaped and very clean city. However, the public transport system here is still well below par, just like the rest of the Malaysian  cities outside Kuala Lumpur.

Taxis in Kuching are largely in shabby conditions although  number of executive blue taxis have been introduced lately. Buses have improved with the introduction of aircond City Link buses, though admittedly it would take slightly longer to  attract more passengers  or to increase trip  frequencies. A plus for Kuching is, like KL, the opening recently of the New Kuching Central bus terminal.

The year 2020 is another eight years away. Within this period Malaysians should look forward to an efficient  public transportation system expected in every city of  a developed nation.

DAH IKHWAN

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10 Responses to KL Public Transport System

  1. Zaaba says:

    DAH,
    For as along as politics is the main consideration, public transportation in Malaysia, in particular KL, will remain chaotic at best.

  2. drmuzaffar says:

    Agreed. Public transportation in Malaysia is way way behind a developed country, though we did have the required infrastructure.

    Hope Najib Razak can improve on this aspect. He is spending billions for MRT projects and hopefully he can improve the delivery and maintenance aspect as well.

  3. DAH IKHWAN says:

    Saudara Zaaba, it is true that politic was the main consideration in the past, but I note many changes for the better since Najib era. I share drmuzaffar’s hope that he will stick to his goals under the economic transformation and government transformation program.

    One thing people often overlooked is the role of the government servants who prepare or oversee the detailed specifications and supervise the construction of the public transport system. If they are passionate and skilled in executing their works, Isnya Allah we shall see the best. This is where belief in good value system (nilai nilai murni) among them is also essential.

    • Zaaba says:

      I used to share your hope and anticipation, However I no longer do so now. I am in an unfortunately position to have a peek at the “behind-the-scenes” happenings and I do not like what little I observe.

      Najib’s rhetoric is encouraging when one first hears of it. Over time, it tends to open up many questions with no answers.

  4. PCK林 says:

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullaah wa barakaatuh.
    The year 2020 is not too far away. Isnya Allah, in about eight years’ time Malaysia will be able to achieve the status of a developed country having not only an efficient public transport system and other modern facilities but also, more importantly, a democratic government run by clean and incorruptible politicians!
    If the Singaporeans can get honest people to run their country, we Sarawakians can do it too if we ensure that our young generation is well educated.

    Wish you a Happy New Year.

  5. DAH IKHWAN says:

    Thank you PCK. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you too.

  6. drmuzaffar says:

    I hope Malaysia wont follow Singapore style of democracy. Where all the good opponents end up into bankruptcy..all power centred into one FAMILY

    Good for short trip, but to stay for good….huhu…may end up at Woodbridge Hospital.

  7. DAH IKHWAN says:

    I agree with drmuzaffar. Singapore is a good example of a well run and successful nation, but Malaysia practices a better form of democratic government. We have a strong opposition which even sell their newspapers the Rocket, Suara Keadilan and Harakah to the public. They also have a popular online newspaper Malaysiakini. They are free to make all sorts of accusation against the government, but our people need to be smart to digest these information, either real or propaganda materials. None of these features exist in Singapore.as anybody daring enough to fight the government there end up as bankrupts.

  8. Awi Pak Aad says:

    I think we are going too fast in using technology in everyday life in the context of public transportation where one has to read lighted route indicators,choose destinations,insert money to get chips ( tickets ) insert chip at departure points,board train ,insert chip again to regain ‘freedom’ to exit from from the station.We have left out the ” human elements” to deal with the illiterates,aged passengers,people with children or with some baggages because help for these groups of travellers is non-existent !.Manual ticket sales counters are more often closed than open..So what next ? People complain of inefficiency and bereaucracy which leads to expressions of dissatisfaction of the ” rakyat “,…soon amplifed by certain quarters to show the Government is not doing enough for public transport !

  9. DAH IKHWAN says:

    Saudara Awi,

    You have a valid point. I feel it is a matter of fine tuning and balancing the use of season pass, automatic token machine and manned ticket counters. With good incentive passengers could be directed properly to reduce queues at each channels.

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