Bus Going Bust – Part Two

The only way any public transportation system works is if there is real commitment.

A commitment from government to see it through, a commitment from agencies/contractors involved in the delivery and most of all from the ticket buyer.

Now everyone will be more than happy to sign on the pledge, but they have to think
State as a country, we will rely on public transportation, use it, and then people will follow suit.

This is the basic principle from each every policy must follow from.

The prevailing think

That if there is an event at the stadium, then the transportation system must involve itself immediately upon receiving information from organisers. The event organisers have an interest to bring people to the event and get them home. The attendees want to get to the event with the least hassle from multi-points with assurance of reasonable return. The transport operators are looking at revenue from the traffic, provide first view to new commuters who are taking public transportation just for the event and enhance their reliability.

Instead organisers would have to cajole and convince the operator to serve, and even if they did, it would be a reluctant one.

That in micro is what the general public gets – a reluctant and long drawn service.

It happens because not enough of those with an ability to improve the situation are driven by the issue. The transport provider is rarely proactive and information is not disseminated to the public in time.

Rarely do the transport provider employees go out of their way to guide people, tell people, advice people on best routes and means and considerately pass information back to the company – unless there media is present.

Local knowledge

The government must work with local units of transportation. Much of the information they have about transportation needs are based on who takes the service. They need to factor in the real localised needs of the people.

My area has horrendous public transport. It has driven people to near-suicide. Yet 1-2 km away through the inner taman roads is a major transportation hub, which most buses stop over at. It is Cheras’ corridor into the Dusun Tua villages.

Place a van service every 10 minutes, and there would be hordes of people from my 50 tamans to use it. We could co-share the large volume they can absorb – if there is a link-up.

But that is local knowledge. And you won’t get local knowledge if you are bent on only foreign consultants to solve your problems.

You have to make the distinction between technical and knowledge about advances, and the actual needs of people – which is lost in translation – because we are largely a top down nation. Initiatives like Local Agenda 21 talk about the community involved, but the whole involvement of people fails when we are unable to lubricate the process of information exchange.

The demand issue

We need to resolve the universal demand issue. This is obviously subsidiary to the commitment dimension introduced early here.

People don’t believe the Malaysian government wants to get them to work, school and play successfully and back.

For starters – to win broader appeal – , the various government departments in Putrajaya’s administration complex should be connected by buses. No one would need to get into a car into to get to another ministry – ministers included. It would be absolutely brilliant to see ministers arrive together.

In Singapore, the transportation system still relies heavily on buses. Buses are flexible. They carry 50 odd persons and they are not limited by the rail line or river lane – it only needs planning for the routes.

The demand is predicated on people’s confidence of the system.

Trains have had some success in Malaysia, because its basic information is more direct and simple, because the number of lines and stops are limited.

When I am overseas, I am acutely suspicious of their bus service. This is built by my own personal experience in Malaysia. I laugh-off their time schedule, as some sort of tall-tale. But the buses do come – on time.

The key point

Our transport woes – whether enforced by local knowledge or demand issues – centres around one element – trust, or the lack thereof.

Commuters don’t believe it works. What ruins things further are announcements of new initiatives here and there without having the will to see them through.

And you can’t have trust, if there is no honesty. Admit our weaknesses and explain what is possible in the short term and medium term.

Because as you zigzag the city for the raya season, one recurring observation are the bus-stops and the people waiting there, and the rare bus passing by. You can bet your last dollar, they are not there because they think public transportation is great. They would not be there if they could afford a private vehicle.

Part One

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