Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 14th of July, 2016
Public Transportation in the Klang Valley should be affordable, integrated, easy to use and reliable
On the 30th of June, 2016, Prime Minister Najib officiated the launch of the LRT extension for the Kelana Jaya and Ampang lines to the new Putra Heights interchange. About a year ago, Najib also officiated the opening of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service from Sunway-Setia Jaya to USJ 7. While the expansion of public transportation coverage in the Klang Valley is a much welcome move, the provision of public transportation is much more than just building new LRT stations and MRT lines. Specifically, public transportation should be affordable, integrated, easy to use and reliable.
I decided to test out the new LRT extension and also other aspects of our public transportation system last Tuesday, the 5th of July, 2016, a day before Hari Raya. I drove my car to the new LRT station near Taman OUG called Awan Besar and took the LRT to the Putra Heights interchange. I changed trains and alighted at the USJ 7 station and took the BRT to Sunway-Setia Jaya. From there, I took the KTM train to KL Sentral. I then took the LRT to Masjid Jamek via the Kelana Jaya line and changed trains to the Ampang line to head back to the Awan Besar LRT station. How did my experience rate based on the four criteria outlined above?
Firstly, our LRT fares are not exactly affordable. My LRT trip from Awan Besar to USJ7 cost RM5.20 for a cashless fare because I used my RapidKL card (a cash token would have cost RM6.10 for the same ride). The BRT ride from USJ7 to Sunway Setia cost me an additional RM5.40 which meant that the LRT plus BRT for a one-way trip cost me RM10.60! Of course, one may say that there are not that many people who would choose this route to get to Sunway-Setia Jaya but even if I were to alight at Sunway University / Sunway Monash (let’s say I was a student at one of the institutions), the BRT ride would cost me RM2.70 for a total of RM7.90 for a one-way trip from the Awan Besar LRT to the SunU-Monash BRT station.
For argument’s sake, let’s say I wanted to take the train from Awan Besar to the end of the Kelana Jaya line which is Gombak. A one-way trip would cost me RM5.70 for a cashless trip (RM6.70 for a cash token). While this is still cheaper than driving and parking, it would be a burden for a minimum wage earner to spend RM11.40 per day or RM250 per month just on public transportation.
To compare, we can look across the border to Singapore. The MRT is FREE on weekdays for travel before 7.45am in order to decrease congestion during the peak travel time which is between 8am and 9am. A trip from the first MRT station in the east – Pasir Ris (E1) – to the last MRT station in the west – Joo Koon (E29) – which covers a distance of 42.6km only costs SGD 2.03.
Note: Singapore’s GDP per capita is more than five times Malaysia’s GDP per capita
On the first criteria, affordability, Malaysia’s public transport system seems to fall short.
Secondly, to what extent is our public transportation integrated? On this front, I think some improvements have been made in the Klang Valley. The integration of the KTM, LRT, ERL and some bus routes has transformed KL Sentral into a public transportation hub which is used by many thousands every day. The Sunway BRT system connects the KTM to the LRT (albeit at a high cost to the user). The Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT Line 1 will increase connectivity and public transport integration when it is operational next year. One major gap to be filled is the insufficient feeder bus routes from various neighbourhoods to the LRT and KTM stations.
But public transportation integration is more than just physical integration. It should also incorporate fare integration. This means that whether one is taking a Rapid KL bus, the LRT or KTM, a journey from the start to the end destination should cost the same regardless of how many times one changes from one form of public transportation to another. Right now, if we take a bus to the LRT station followed by an LRT train followed by a BRT bus, we will be charged three fares for a single journey. An integrated public transportation system will charge us one single fare for that journey. This will increase the affordability of our public transportation system significantly.
For example, in March this year, I took a bus from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore to the Boon Lay MRT station (in the west) and from there I took an MRT to the Changi Airport (in the east). The fare was SGD 2.03 – 0.88 cents for the bus ride and 1.15 for the MRT ride. It was counted as one journey and one fare even though I took a bus and an MRT. This fare integration makes public transportation in Singapore even more affordable. In Malaysia, fare integration is a concept that is unfamiliar to almost all public transportation users.
One of the reasons why fare integration remains a challenge in Malaysia is the inability of KTM to ‘sync’ its ticketing system with the LRT / Monorail. While one can use the ‘Touch and Go’ card to pay the KTM fare, it is not possible to use the RapidKL card to pay the KTM fare. In addition, the KTM commuter’s own automatic ticketing system is still not functioning. At the Setia Jaya KTM station, for example, one automatic ticketing machine was not working and another was still undergoing testing. And there was no one on duty at the manual ticketing counter! (See below)
It looks like we have a long way to go before we can see fare integration even though KTM promised last November that a single ticketing system that is integrated with the LRT and Monorail will be introduced in June this year.
Thirdly, is our public transportation system easy to use?
For the new stations on the Kelana Jaya and Ampang extensions, the station indicators on the trains were not working properly when I used them last Tuesday. This means that commuters would not be able to easily keep track of the upcoming LRT stations so that they know which station to alight at. At the same time, there were no announcements on the PA system on the upcoming stations.
In addition, when I took the LRT from Masjid Jamek to Awan Besar, there were no announcements notifying commuters that we had to change trains at Sri Petaling to get to Awan Besar. On the LRT maps, the line from Sri Petaling to Awan Besar is supposed to be seamless and does not seem to require commuters to change trains. I was only made aware of this when my train stopped at Sri Petaling and then went back to the Bukit Jalil station without going on to Awan Besar.
Much more needs to be done in order to improve the signage and the announcements in the LRT stations. (I’ll save the lack of bus route maps for Rapid KL buses for another time)
Fourthly and finally, is our public transportation system reliable? Again, I’ll put aside the question of the reliability of feeder buses for now since I did not take any feeder buses last Tuesday. While the LRT trains were quite regular (waiting time less than 10 minutes for all the stops I was at), the same cannot be said of the KTM. Because I just missed the train at the Setia Jaya KTM station, I had to wait 45 minutes for the next train. One of the reasons for the low frequency of the KTM trains, especially during off peak hours, is because of ongoing double tracking work, but I understand that even during peak hours, trains along the Tanjung Malim and Sentul stretch only arrived once every 45 minutes.
An unreliable public transportation system in terms of regularity and timing will discourage many users from switching from private vehicles to public transport. It will also cause much discomfort and increase commuting times for those who don’t have a choice but to use public transportation.
I’d encourage our politicians, especially our Ministers, to test out our public transportation system by themselves, without an entourage, including getting their own tickets and planning their own routes so that they can see for themselves the problems which commuters face on a daily basis in terms of the affordability, integration, ease of use and reliability of the public transportation system in the Klang Valley.
Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang
 Assuming there are 22 working days in a month.