Time for Ka Siong, Chin Tong to walk the talk

Josh Hong

When buses do not arrive as scheduled and intra- and inter-township shuttles are either terribly inadequate or non-existent, how can one blame the people for not using public transport? – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 6, 2022.

WHEN I was searching for a place to live in London in the 1990s, the first thing I looked for was connectivity. I would start by checking the location of the nearest train station.

I notice many Malaysians working in Singapore do the same. The tenancy ads always indicate location of the nearest MRT station; the same can be said for ads in other metropolises such as Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Paris and Berlin, places with world-class public transport systems that make daily commuting a breeze.

Not so in greater Kuala Lumpur, a self-congratulatory global city, where the car-and-highway-dependent culture dies hard.

One only has to look at most of the property ad, which that place an emphasis on the “convenience” of being close to certain highways, information on MRT or LRT stations nearby being the exception rather than the rule.

I was recently contacted by a property agent who asked if I would be interested in viewing the showrooms of a new residential project in Section 17, Petaling Jaya.

I replied: “Don’t you know the Selangor government has agreed in principle to the proposed Petaling Jaya Dispersal Link (PJD Link), which will be built right in front of the condominiums you are trying to sell? Perhaps you should consider including that in your advertisements.

“Then again, do you think anyone would be pleased to get up early in the morning and walk to the balcony, only to be greeted with highway traffic noise and polluted air?”

He asked for more information and I duly complied by furnishing him with details of the Say No to PJD Link campaign. I have not heard from him since.

Such is the dilemma confronting the major cities of Malaysia.

Although the Klang Valley is blessed with a relatively advanced rail system thanks to its being the commercial and industrial heartland, the lack of last-mile connectivity in the form of buses, coupled with the poor route designs, has seriously and consistently undermined the ridership over the years.

Take for example the T816, the feeder bus that connects Phileo Damansara MRT station to the neighbouring areas.

Not only does it take a loop route, it also passes through two heavily congested thoroughfares.

It usually takes more than 30 minutes during peak hours to complete the short stretch of 3km during peak hour.

The downside of a loop route is that it purely serves the commuters and not the residents travelling between the neighbourhoods. Those who do not intend to take a train to town therefore have no reason to use the bus. When no other bus services are available, people choose to drive, which perpetuates congestion and parking issues.

In other words, an efficient and reliable bus system is necessary to complement rail transport.

We need more buses to connect the neighbourhoods and residential areas instead of a KL-centric public transport system as is currently the case.

Other mature and fast-developing townships such as Klang, Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Puchong and Kota Damansara also call for intra- and inter-township bus services.

Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong has suggested that a congestion charge could for cars entering Kuala Lumpur upon completion of the planned MRT 3.

That’s rich, coming from someone who is mostly chauffeured around and hence spared the nightmare of the daily commute, not to mention the challenges of last-mile connectivity.

When buses do not arrive as scheduled and intra- and inter-township shuttles are either terribly inadequate or non-existent, how can one blame the people for not using public transport?

Absent an efficient bus network, MRT 3 will not be attractive to commuters.

Having said that, the state governments must ensure accessibility to bus and rail services.

Pakatan Rakyat/Pakatan Harapan has governed Selangor for more than 14 years, but the state’s pavements have not improved.

The condition of the pavements from Taman Jaya LRT station leave much to be desired, being full of potholes and unsafe for pedestrians.

When one reaches Jalan Sultan, there are neither zebra-crossings nor elevators to help the physically challenged or the elderly across the busy road to Petaling Jaya New Town. One indeed takes public transport at one’s peril.

Liew Chin Tong, the DAP assemblyperson for Perling, Johor, has again urged the federal government to prioritise bus over rail transport development.

While I fully concur with him on this, Liew must also be reminded that his party is in power in Selangor and thus must do everything within its powers to provide safe pavements and spaces for commuters to access the bus stops and train stations.

While Liew’s energy could have been better spent on calling on DAP local councillors to put in real effort to that effect, he chooses to waste his time engaging in incessant and unproductive wars of words with his political opponents.

If Liew is truly passionate about public transport, shouldn’t he also issue a statement against the costly, socially damaging and environmentally destructive PJD Link, which the federal government has approved and the PH state government has agreed in principle?

It clearly contradicts whatever Liew stands for when it comes to public transport and he should be as brave and unequivocal as the MPs William Leong (Selayang) and Maria Chin Abdullah (Petaling Jaya).

Be it Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan, both have accumulated sufficient experience and expertise to govern within their jurisdictions.

I am sick of the petty quarrels between political opponents, especially those who have never taken a train or a bus, and earnestly hope that they can focus on finding ways to improve our public transport system to make it reliable and affordable. This will create a society that is less car-dependent and environmentally sustainable.

Otherwise, the politicians are just grandstanding. – June 6, 2022.

* Josh Hong is a keen watcher of domestic and international politics, who longs for the day when Malaysians master the art of self-mockery. He has spent the last 15 years trying to win his feline friends’ favour as he considers it an endeavour more worthwhile than trusting politicians, aspiring also to be a tea and coffee connoisseur.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.


  • Does the author understand that even roads are centrally controlled in this country? There are roads in Penang and PJ that are considered federal roads and if there is no pedestrian crossing the state government cannot do anything about it. Bus services are also controlled by federal. Journalists need to educate themselves before they write more high and mighty articles.

    Posted 1 year ago by Loyal Malaysian · Reply