|Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Better to use public transport than drive 

By YS Chan 

GOING by the results of the latest poll conducted by a market research agency, the Land Public Transport Commission is on track in getting more residents in Greater Kuala Lumpur to use public transport.

However, ridership is bound to increase with urban migration, influx of foreign workers and visitors to Greater Kuala Lumpur, which encompasses Kuala Lumpur, Ampang Jaya, Selayang, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Klang, Kajang, Putrajaya and Sepang.

But visitor arrivals to Malaysia in 2015 and 2016 were lower than 2014, and the number of foreign workers dropped after repeated crackdowns on illegals.

Also, the steep rise in consumer prices and lack of job opportunities over the past two years did not encourage urban migration.

As such, ridership on public transport could easily drop. For trains, buses, taxis and e-hailing services to be popular, passengers must be satisfied with their services.

A survey in Dec 2015 found the overall satisfaction score for public transport users in Greater Kuala Lumpur was 74 percent. It shot up to 84% by Dec 2016.

Last year, more than 12 million foreign visitors travelled to Kuala Lumpur by trains, taxis and e-hailing vehicles, and in stage, express and excursion buses and tour vans. Only a very small number used private vehicles driven by relatives or acquaintances.

In cities of developed countries with good public transport, private cars are not a necessity although they are relatively cheap and could be bought with just several months’ salary.

In Malaysia, we are moving towards transit-oriented development to maximise the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of train stations.

Until then, the population is spread over the city centre, suburbs and countryside in Greater Kuala Lumpur, with many isolated areas unserved by public transport.

Those who are chauffeured to work are unlikely to give up such convenience and comfort, more so when their time in the office is more precious than others.

At the other end of the scale are those who could not afford to own a car and find motorcycling too dangerous. They would have to depend on public transport, unless they could walk or cycle the distance.

The challenge is getting drivers to leave their cars at home or near a bus or train station, and use public transport. Most will not take the trouble to try public transport as they are too used to driving.

Even though changes may be for the better, most people would not bother as they are too accustomed to their set ways. The first step is perceived as a huge inconvenience.

As such, hand-holding or campaigns are necessary to induce them to experience the full range of public transport services.

Take e-hailing for example, those who wish to continue using taxis could use one of the dozen taxi apps available and be assured of a good driver, instead of taking a chance with street hailing.

Those who drive to work probably spend half the time looking at their phones, risking collision or being caught, when they could conveniently update social media and email in a train or bus.

Whether one chooses to drive or use public transport, there are two major costs.

The first is precious time, starting from leaving one’s home including time wasted searching for parking, then walking to reach the office or shop.

The second is expense, which is clear-cut for public transport but few drivers know the maintenance and fuel costs per kilometre of their vehicles. When parking is easily available, the charges are usually high. If parking is free, most of the lots are occupied.

Risks are usually not factored in by drivers. Most unknowingly commit dozens of traffic offences commuting to work daily, such as fidgeting with the handphone, exceeding the 50kph limit, not stopping behind the line at traffic lights, and tailgating.

Getting a summons is not only costly and possibility of accumulating demerit points, it would be a pain thinking about it until it is settled.

There is also the possibility of collision. With or without having to pay for repairs or loss of no claim discount, much time would be spent making several trips to the police station to make a report, returning to meet the investigation officer and collect documents, apart from leaving the car in the workshop.

Worse, drivers may accidentally injure or kill others, and insurance companies will repudiate cover if there is any breach of terms and conditions, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If so, the driver may have to sell off assets such as car or house to pay for the huge claim awarded by the court in a civil suit. As such, motorists should refrain from driving whenever possible, and opt for public transport.

For the sake of our loved ones, we must, particularly those driving to Chinese wedding dinners and could not say no to Yum Seng.

*The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Times (TMT).