Malaysians Nudged Toward Public Transport
But fares might increase.
A recent survey by Frost & Sullivan confirms what most Malaysians already know – that they really despise traffic congestion. Over 40% of the 1227 respondents ranked traffic jams as their topmost frustration, which exceeds the Asia Pacific and global averages of 35% and 26% respectively.
According to the market research firm’s Head of Automotive and Transportation Practice, Kavan Mukhtyar, the traffic condition is attributed to a high dependency on privately owned vehicles. In the country’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur, 79% of its residents get around in private modes of transportation. The statistic is significantly higher than the average for the Asia Pacific region, which is only 54%, and globally, which is slightly lower at 53%.
For the rest of Kuala Lumpur dwellers, only 8% fully depend on public transportation and 11% use a combination of both public and private transportation. According to data from the World Bank, there are 361 vehicles (excluding 2-wheelers) to every 1000 people in Malaysia, the highest compared to its South East Asian neighbours.
The government intends to increase the usage of public transportation from the measly 8% to 40% by the year 2020. Further details of their plan are communicated through the Government Transformation Plan (Improving Urban Public Transportation section). The admirable targets include ensuring that 75% of the population are able to access public transportation within 400 metres and achieving 750 000 peak morning ridership by 2015, by improving public transportation network and standards.
It all sounds dandy on paper, except that last month, the Land Public Transport Commission announced that it was considering increasing public transport fares this year. What with petrol prices being increased intermittently over the past few years, goading taxi and bus operators into demanding for a fare hike, and private car owners lamenting the cost of petrol, Malaysians are finding themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Of course it is not uncommon for Malaysian government bodies to be fickle-minded (not too long ago, there was a go-no go situation for the vehicle end-of-life policy). So, the 8% that utilises public transport will just have to hold their breaths to see if they will have to bear heavier fares.
Meanwhile, the tiny island state of Singapore lauded for its superb public transportation system is planning to invest another SGD60 billion to make public transportation even more appealing. Contrary to Malaysia, Singapore’s difficulty in controlling car ownership is attributed to its citizens’ rising buying power and desire for a status symbol, that hefty ownership costs and vehicle end of life policy have not been able to curb quite successfully. Singapore plans to double its metro rail network with the influx of funds into public transportation. While the rich may continue to ride their luxury cars, like the BMW 328i that costs 6 times more in Singapore than in the US, the augmented network will help to ease overcrowding of buses and trains compounded by increasing foreign manpower in the country.