It looks like the idea of Road Pricing for Kuala Lumpur has arisen again, like a vampire from its interrupted slumber. And this time, it is courtesy of the newly appointed Mayor of KL.
The article above appeared is from The Sun yesterday, almost like a premonition to the press statement reported today in the NST (PDF version here). In fact, the newly appointed Datuk Bandar (Mayor), Datuk Ab Hakim Borhan, made it as part of his first-day-at-work press "mission" statement.
Will this turn out to be another badly implemented half-baked plan?
(PDF version here)
He may as well call himself Tom Cruise, with this kind of Mission Impossible.
Personally, Walski thinks that eventually there should be some sort of road pricing scheme. But not until there are viable and attractive alternative means of transportation available. The new Mayor is under the impression that public transportation is actually a viable option (emphasis by myAsylum).
Hakim said the move was possible because public transportation connecting the city centre with other areas in the Klang Valley was now available.
"There are LRT and other public transportation into the city. We might need to adjust and improve the public transport system further," he said at his first Press conference at City Hall headquarters here yesterday.
Well, guess what? While we do have a not-so-integrated LRT & Monorail network and bus network, a whole helluva lot has to be done before any road pricing is to be implemented. And KL has actually had public transportation "connecting the city center with other areas" for eons now.
Oddly, the Mayor is saying it as if it's something novel and new to KL. In all likelihood, he didn't have to take the bus or any form of public transportation to get into the office on his first day at work.
(more Mayor pain, plus the NST spin, in the full post)
The biggest problem with wanting to make politically look-good plans such as what the new Datuk Bandar has in mind is in proper planning and immaculate implementation. Remember the bus/taxi lanes that were introduced some years back? These have caused more problems than provide a solution to traffic congestion. And freeing up a lane for buses and taxis has not addressed the real problem - there simply are not enough buses, and too many bus companies.
One amusing thing mentioned by the Datuk Bandar - an integrated ticketing system. Again, as if it's such a groundbreaking idea. An integrated ticketing system is something that has been talked about for the last fucking decade. And what do we have today? More talk. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that puzzle out, and yet, implementing it has apparently been impossible.
Not for lack of technology, but for sheer lack of will. Although not reported as such, Walski's guess is that the various transport operators in the Klang Valley simply do not want to budge from the status quo, and every operator probably has some influential politician that they can go crying to, every time there has been talk of consolidating or streamlining the public transport system.
And just like a lot of other things in Malaysia, it all boils down to politics. The same goes with the sad state of the KL public transportation system. Sure, the spin-meisters will proudly proclaim that KL has an integrated public transportation network.
But in reality it is integrated in name only, not seamlessly, or even physically, in many cases. Perfect example - the KL Monorail system, which terminates near KL Sentral. Not at, or in, but near - about half a kilometer from the rail network hub. Now, Walski doesn't really know which dickhead came up with that idea - but he or she really needs to open up a frigging dictionary and look up the word integrated. In fact, allow Walski to do it for you:
(1) Formed or united into a whole
(2) Not segregated
(3) Caused to combine or unite
source: Websters Online Dictionary
And in the context of a transportation network, one that doesn't have a common ticketing system, or is not even physically connected (try changing lines between Star & Putra LRTs at Masjid Jamek sometime), cannot be called integrated. And no, using Touch-n-Go between lines doesn't count as a "common" ticketing system.
True to form, however, the NST tries to apply some of their renowned mind-numbing spin, by having a supplementary article on how other large cities handle their traffic woes. Among the cities mentioned: London, Bangkok, state of California, and Singapore. (The Sun article also highlighted Oslo, in addition to London and Singapore). And they've also added a straw-poll survey, and as of 5:17pm today, 58.62% of the 384 respondents say "Go for it" - Walski wonders how many of the respondents were from NST itself...
But while these other cities and areas have truly world-class public transportation systems, which are viable alternatives, KL commuters changing lines, say between KL Monorail and Putra at KL Sentral, for example, still have to cross a busy street, and walk a few hundred meters, all the while exposed to the elements (and traffic). Now, how can this, by any stretch of the imagination, even come close to being integrated?
Furthermore, the KL mass transit system still does not service many high growth areas, such as Puchong, Kinrara, or UEP Subang Jaya, while the KL Commuter system is woefully inadequate in terms of capacity and frequency.
If the new Mayor's proposals are implemented without proper planning and execution (which is a very real possibility), implementing a car-pool lane, in addition to the bus lane already in service, would mean certain chaos. Not to mention, how the fuck are they going to enforce this?
As it is, we see drivers happily double (sometimes triple) park their cars in various areas of even the city center. Indiscriminate parking is also another big factor why our roads are congested. Don't believe Walski? Try driving through Brickfields sometime (that's Jalan Tun Sambanthan), and see for yourself what kind of chaos there is, in the heart of little India.
Again, Walski is not against road pricing, in principle. It's just that Kuala Lumpur is nowhere close to readiness for it. And if new policies (which will probably not be properly enforcable, just like the existing policies) are put into place, just for the sake of Visit Malaysia Year 2007, Walski thinks that the end-result will in fact be more congestion, not less.
Seriously, the new Datuk Bandar should try to get to work using the KL Public Transport network he seems to think so highly about - anonymously, and without fanfare.