Public transport, especially in the major towns like Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru and Kota Kinabalu need to be fixed. Over the years, while the government has done well to improve the road system in our country, it has failed to address public transport system. Hence, the usage of public transport has dropped dramatically to only about 16 percent.
While good road system is important, we need to improve the public transport system, otherwise our roads will continue to be clogged by motor vehicles. It is a chicken and egg situation whereby because of the poor public transport system, then having your own mode of transport becomes a necessity and not a luxury. It is not uncommon to find an employee not coming to work because his car or motorbike breaks down. Many areas in Kuala Lumpur are not served by public transport. Hence, the ownership of motor vehicle by Malaysians is one of the highest in Asia.
Najib chairs the Cabinet Committee on Public Transport and this is tasked to improve public transport so that the usage of public transport would increase to 25 percent in the short term and ultimately 40% in the long term. This may be a difficult target to achieve until greater commitment is shown to improve the public transport system.
The latest budget shows that the government has announced a number of initiatives to improve the public transport. However, this looks like a piece meal effort. The major cities need an integrated transport master plan. Until there is better connectivity between the various mode of transport, people will shun public transport. The various public transports available in KL are not inter-connected. When you buy a bus ticket, you cannot travel in a commuter train. The first act of improving the connectivity is to make travel in the public transport system hussle free.
There are too many departments involved in looking after public transport. The latest count is 13 departments. There should be a body like the Cabinet Committee on public transport that is the supreme body that oversees all public transport problems from application of licenses, planning of routes, better equipments, more efficient service and cost-effective way of delivering the service.
Right now, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad has done a poor job in the procurement of buses and equipments. RapidKL is not as rapid as it should be. It is hoped that through better coordination, the development of the public transport system will not be in an ad-hoc and haphazard manner.
A land transport commission may be required so as to bring different agencies in line and engage the public in order to plan a more people’s friendly route. The support of the rakyat is important if we want to promote better usage of public transport system. There is a need to educate the taxi and the bus drivers that they are not kings of the road.