Monday August 18, 2008
Coping with more commuters
By YIP YOKE TENG
Many KL folks now leave their cars behind after feeling the pinch of a 40% hike in petrol prices, but upon taking public transport, they cannot help but think that our service providers are not ready for better business. StarMetro finds out more about the situation.
RESORTING to public transport has become the only choice, albeit a sometimes inconvenient one, for many KL-ites following a 40% increase in petrol prices recently.
Rangkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras Sdn Bhd (RapidKL), the main service provider for public transportat in the Klang Valley, recorded a 7.5% increase in ridership for its bus services and a 3.9% increase for the LRT services.
That, in other words, means the buses are now taking about 392,000 passengers daily, 27,000 more than they previously did while the LRT lines have seen an increase of 12,000 daily.
Can our current system cope with the drastic increase? The scenes seen during peak hours suggest otherwise — commuters squeeze themselves like canned sardines to get into Komuter trains, passengers spill out of bus stops onto roads where traffic is heavy while dozens are “stranded” after disembarking from the LRT as the feeder buses lie idle.
“It is getting from bad to worse,” accounts clerk Martin Fernandez, 26, who travels to work by Komuter, said.
“There’s an obvious increase in the number of passengers. I need to wait longer for my turn to get into the train and I do not want to be as rough as some just to secure a space,” he said.
LRT user Tina Low, 24, said she was frustrated waiting for the feeder bus and often had to resort to taking the taxi to get home.
“At the end of the day, I wonder how much I can save and I may as well just drive,” the bank executive said.
StarMetro checked with several service providers on the measures they are taking to cope with the increased volume of commuters.
RapidKL was the first to respond, KTM has pledged to reply and Monorail had to turn down the interview until a transition of management was completed.
Measures taken by RapidKL:
·New Four-Car Trains
It is learned that SPNB, the asset owner, and RapidKL will bring in a total of 22 sets of new four-car trains between 2009 and 2011;
“We expect to have the complete set of 22 trains by the end of 2011. By the end of 2009, the Kelana Jaya Line service will have a combination of four car and two-car trains in operation during peak hours,” RapidKL chief executive officer Suffian Baharuddin said.
With that, he said, the Kelana Jaya Line could hold a maximum capacity of more than 300,000 passengers per day compared with the current capacity of 160,000 per day.
·Park-and-ride facilities to encourage use on the Ampang LRT Line
RapidKL has made available park-and-ride facilities at stations along its Ampang LRT Line where the current capacity is about 70% (see table). LRT users can also consider going to the stations by car-pool.
The Maluri, Cempaka, Pandan Jaya and Pandan Indah stations have more than 200 parking bays each, while the Pudu, PWTC, Sungai Besi, Sentul and Sentul Timur stations have about 100 each.
The Cahaya station was recently equipped with a footbridge linking both platforms. Formerly, passengers would have to use an overhead bridge about 30m away to cross to the other side.
“Therefore, we encourage the public living near LRT stations to use the LRT services.
RapidKL can also increase the number of trains to cater to any significant growth in passenger demand for the Ampang Line,” Suffian added.
RapidKL also claimed that they had not encountered major glitches in managing the higher traffic volume, with adequate staff at the LRT stations to manage the crowd.
“When the crowd at the platform is large, the staff will stop the crowd at the concourse level until the passengers clear the platform.
This is part of our safety measures to prevent any incidents,” Suffian said.
He said in cases of disruption in the LRT service, passengers were updated with frequent announcements over the PA system so that they could make alternative arrangements. Buses would also be deployed to the affected stations.
·Wider bus coverage
Suffian said RapidKL was constantly reviewing its bus network in order to feed the demand, including the local shuttle service that serves as the feeder bus.
He said RapidKL now covered 166 routes compared with 140 in 2005 when it first came on board. It covered 980 housing estates compared with 638 before and 650 buses are scheduled for deployment during peak hours compared with 470 in 2005.
“There are 18 other stage bus operators in the Klang Valley. RapidKL only provides an estimated 55% out of the overall stage bus services here.
“RapidKL serves 23 social routes where demand for the bus service is still low and, in many instances, we are the only bus operator in the area. It is hoped that all bus operators could also serve a mixture of high and low demand routes to improve the overall stage bus services,” he said.
·Recruitment of drivers
RapidKL has started an “aggressive” recruitment programme for new bus drivers with attractive remunerations where they can earn more than RM1,500 a month.
Suffian also noted that bus services were largely affected by traffic conditions.
“Bus delays faced by commuters in Klang Valley are generally due to traffic congestion and other factors beyond RapidKL’s control, including road diversion and closures, haphazard parking, adverse weather conditions as well as traffic accidents,” he said.
·More sheltered bus stops
RapidKL is working with the local authorities to help in providing more sheltered bus stops for their comfort and convenience; and
RapidKL hails Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s initiative to extend and enforce bus lanes in the city, urging other local authorities to emulate the move