Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Why the Lack of Public Transport?

Written by johnleemk on 1:26:22 pm Jun 6, 2007.
Categories: ,

In Malaysia, one glaring problem when it comes to daily life, especially in any urban area, is the major deficiency in the area of public transportation. Getting almost anywhere demands a car; even walking or cycling is discouraged by the frequent lack of overpasses and sidewalks.

It should be glaringly obvious to anyone who thinks about it that roads alone do not scale. It is only a matter of time before the roads jam and make getting around too stressful to be worth it.

Economists have pointed out that driving exacts a cost on society, because a driver takes up space on the road that other drivers could be using. Thus, they reason, there should be a tax on driving.

Of course, there are practical problems with this; not many people would be comfortable with the government tracking their car's odometer. The common solution has been to impose a congestion tax, prohibiting access to certain roads unless a payment is made.

However, the solution of taxation cannot work unless there are other methods of transport available; making people choose between driving and paying a tax or staying home is not really a permanent answer to the problem of transportation.

There have been proposals to impose a congestion tax in some urban areas of Malaysia, like Kuala Lumpur. However, as many people have pointed out, without some alternative means of transport, these taxes will likely not be effective.

Being a Klang Valley resident, I can only speak about my experience here, but from what I understand, the situation is similar in other urban parts of the country.

Here, the monorail and LRT systems are in shambles. Major areas which attract huge numbers of people are not served by this archaic system, while areas virtually in the middle of nowhere have major stations.

The commercial area near my house is a brilliant example — it has three major shopping complexes, one cineplex, two hotels, one major furniture store, two schools, and two major condominium complexes all situated within 15 minutes of a central area, by foot.

Why cannot the government buy out that central area, which only serves as a golf driving range (which, might I add, is also conveniently located right next to a major highway), and build an LRT station there?

At the moment, the train system is so fragmented that to get from the nearest station to my house (which is about 15 minutes away by car) to a hotel in the KL city centre last year, I had to change stations located about ten minutes away from each other by foot.

This situation would not be so bad, if not for the incredibly misleading and sometimes outdated information given by the train companies, which made the stations seem as if they were right next to each other. (Otherwise, I would have gone to KL Sentral.)

Worse still, the station's signage was so unhelpful that I got lost, and wandered around for about five to ten minutes before finding out that the station was not actually next door, and was located quite a distance away, only reachable through an unlighted walkway in the middle of the night.

I'm not even going to talk about the bus system, because of its incredible unreliability. I have never bothered to take a bus here in my life, because I know it's not worth wasting my time on.

Why can't we have a better system? It's not like these things are hard to do. All we need is a little common sense in those managing the transportation system. But alas, as they say, common sense is not so common.

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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.

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