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Public Transportation 101: How Easy & Convenient To Use Public Transport Now?

Mini Bus Public Transportation Malaysia Pink

Whilst Malaysia does have a very good and integrated public transportation system, there is something missing to connect the remote and far away suburbs with the main public transportation hubs in the country. The missing link, in my opinion, is the gutsy minibuses that we used to have till the end of the 1990s. Image source: Wikipedia.

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Childhood Public Transport

When we moved to the medium-cost flats, the only public transportation that we had was the bus and it will us at least 15 minutes walk from home to the nearest bus stop and that was before we discovered another bus lane that only requires only 5 minutes walk.

The only problem with this is the frequency of the bus as it will take almost 30 – 45 minutes between each bus service. So if we miss the bus and we often missed the bus because their timing was not consistent, it is a long wait before the next bus. Once we reached KL, we had another round of dilemmas on whether to walk all the way to the office or take another bus to the workplace.

When I started to work and most of my pay went for my university fees, I decided to walk instead so to save up money. That meant a 30 minutes walk from Jalan Sultan all the way to Jalan Raja Chulan. It was healthy too and somewhat safe as there were others who used public transport also walked in the morning and evening.

Taking public transportation to my grandma’s house in Serdang would require us to get down at the bus station near Jalan Sultan and then take the long walk to the notorious Puduraya to take the bus to Serdang.

Public Transportation Malaysia LRT Monorail Monorail

Once you reach the main transportation hub, you can rest assured that you are well connected to other transportation hubs. The problem is to reach these hubs in time for you to reach the office or home in time. Image: Google 

Is Public Transport Feasible – Experimental

This is an interesting video of the guys from Soya Cincau who tried out taking public transport from their respective homes to the workplace which usually takes them just 30 minutes using their own bikes.

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The challenges that these guys faced are the same challenges that most of us who opt to drive instead of taking public transportation have on a daily basis.

Is Public Transport Feasible – Personal Experience

Personally, I prefer to take public transportation but in the case of the guys from Soya Cincau, I face the same issues and challenges with public transport from my home to my workplace. On a good day, it takes less than 30 minutes for me to drive from home to the office’s underground parking lot.

But if I am going to take public transportation, based on the options in Google Maps, my 30 minutes journey will take at least 2 to 2.5 hours at the very minimum. Firstly it will need me to walk about 20 minutes to the nearest bus stop and the road leading to this bus stop is not so busy in the morning and thus is not so safe to be walking alone.

Then I need to cross a two-lane busy road on both sides to reach a spot that happens to be a bus stop for the residents nearby. Then there is the waiting for the bus that I will actually need to take on the next route. One needs to wait for the specific bus which has a frequency of almost 2 hours before changing to another bus and then get down for another 20-minute walk to the office.

Well, it will be a different story if we can get one bus all the way from home to the office with some walking involved.

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In reality, it is about money – money to hire people to do rigorous inspections, money for repairs and spare parts and money for replacements. Bus stops in some places fare worse due to lack of maintenance (as it may come under the supervision of local authorities) or poor design that does not stop rainwater from spilling on the passengers waiting for the bus. 

Other Issues

Even if you have world-class public transportation that is well connected, it means nothing if it is always full or the frequency between the buses or the trains is too wide. This was the case recently where there is an issue of escalators breaking down and bad frequency of the trains causing overwhelmed crowd at the station.

The solution that the government imposed however missed the point:-

Netizens have criticised Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s announcement that all RapidKL services will be free of charge for a month starting today in a bid to boost public transport usage.

Ismail’s announcement, made during the official opening of Phase 1 of the MRT Putrajaya Line today, means that commuters can ride for free on the MRT, LRT, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), monorail or RapidKL bus services for a month.

Describing it as a move to win votes ahead of the next general election (GE15), social media users also said that it was more important to address public transport issues such as overcrowding and service breakdowns.

A user with the handle @nizanLFCs said the move would not solve the issue of overcrowding on public transport, while @bazziness said ensuring the trains were well maintained was more important than giving free rides for a month.

A user with the handle @sofeahjoned pointed out that taxpayers will have to bear the cost of Ismail’s announcement.

(Source: Free Malaysia Today)

In addition to the state of facilities and frequency of public transport, the minor infrastructure such as signboards, condition of bus stops and also the corresponding app will need to be improved as well. Speaking about the app to use to identify which public transport, the easiest one to use would be the public transport option in Google Maps.

sri jaya bus childhood transportation public

One of the many buses that I have taken from the time when I took the public bus to go to school. I often have at least one bus pass that we would renew every month and it only cost us 50% of the bus pass that is sold to the general public. This was long before we had the Touch N Go cards. Image source: Forum For Free

Final Say

Frankly speaking, it is not feasible to take public transport and spend an additional 1.5 hours on the road. It is not productive considering that to make up for the additional 1.5 hours of travelling, one has to wake up early and reach home late as well.

That leaves less time for personal affairs and time for sleep. It is also not productive because not much work can be achieved whilst travelling especially if the bus or train is packed full. Instead, I rather wake up early, reach the office early and get my work done early. Or I rather sleep and wake up a bit late and still reach the office on time.

And the introduction of feeder buses similar to the mini buses in the past might be the solution that may cut down the overall journey time. Driving is actually not cheap considering the cost of ownership of the vehicle, toll charges, fuel and also the maintenance due to wear & tear. The overall cost is indeed increasing on yearly basis.

The better solution between driving a car which will be costly and public transport which is not so efficient is to use a motorcycle which is something I used to do for almost 15 years. The only problem with riding a motorcycle is a higher risk of an accident as one is exposed to the elements.

Of course, the best solution would be cycling to work which will not take long provided there is a dedicated bicycle lane and it is environmental-friendly too.

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