Multi-modal transport system key to liveable city development
Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme aims to transform Kuala Lumpur into one of the world’s most liveable cities. Mohd Nur Kamal, CEO of SPAD, Malaysia’s Land Transport Commission, explains how a world class multi-modal transport system will be key to reaching that goal
Superficially, Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is commonly known, is the model of a vibrant, modern, cosmopolitan city to equal any in the world. The Petronas Twin Towers, an iconic global symbol of Malaysia, are surrounded by stunningly designed, modern high-rise office towers. Construction of many others in progress reflects the astonishing growth that has taken place in Malaysia over the last two decades.
In terms of transport infrastructure, the greater KL area is on a par with most modern cities. It has good highways, many of them tolled, urban motorways and ring roads. It also boasts the unique Stormwater Management & Road Tunnel, a dual purpose installation that bristles with the most modern ITS systems to monitor and control its operation.
Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal was appointed CEO of the Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) in 2010. He began his career as a senior financial analyst with CNA Financial Corp in Chicago, USA. After receiving an MBA with Distinction from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, he joined AT Kearney, a top-tier global management consultancy headquartered in Chicago, as an Associate. After living in the United States for 14 years, he moved back to Kuala Lumpur with AT Kearney serving clients
Within the city, KL Sentral, Malaysia’s largest transit hub, is Kuala Lumpur’s world ranking integrated rail transport centre housed in a purpose designed, ultra modern complex. It links six rail systems - KTM Intercity, KTM Komuter, Rapid KL, KLIA Ekspres, KLIA Transit, and the KL Monorail, another iconic feature that began operation in 2003, with two-carriage trains travelling above the streets below every few minutes.
However, like many, or indeed most cities around the world, KL suffers from chronic traffic congestion that chokes its arteries and inhibits economic growth. For an ambitious city like KL, that is unacceptable, especially in view of the country’s Economic Transformation Programme (http://etp.pemandu.gov.my/
), an initiative focused on transforming Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020. Its goal is to lift the country’s gross national income per capita from US$6,700 in 2009 to more than US$15,000 in 2020, propelling the nation to the level of other high income nations.
As Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has stated, “Transportation, especially public transport, is a key component of economic growth and high quality standards of living. It needs to support the growing population and diverse expectations of urban activity. In other words, a comprehensive and well-performing transport system is an important enabler for sustained economic prosperity.”
Malaysia has matched its words and ambition with the kind of government driven action that many cities and countries around the world could learn from. In June 2010 the Malaysian Parliament passed the Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat
(SPAD) Act establishing the SPAD Land Public Transport Commission. On 31 January 2011 the organisation gained its full powers.
SPAD comes directly under the purview of the Prime Minister. It brings under one roof policy, planning and regulation functions for all aspects of train, bus and taxi services as well as road and rail freight transport previously spread across 13 departments. It also has enforcement powers which it carries out through close cooperation with other enforcement agencies such as the Royal Malaysian Police and the Road Transport Department.
Huge modal shift
Just 15 months into its work when ITS International interviewed its CEO, Mohd Nur Kamal, measurable progress is being made, especially in KL where a great deal of work needs to be done to achieve a huge modal shift. In 2009, just 13% of travellers in the greater KL area (Kalang Valley) used public transport.
That has already risen to 17%, but the target is huge – a shift to 50% by 2025. Is that achievable, we asked? “Greater KL has a population of six million and is one of 12 key economic areas targeted. Its population will swell to about 10 million by 2020,” says Kamal. “If we want to move 10 million people with the uplift in economic activity that we anticipate, it simply cannot be achieved with the transport infrastructure as it is now.
“At present, there are not that many choices for people to get from many areas of the Klang Valley into the city. They still have to rely on their cars and their motorcycles. But once we provide the options and make public transport comfortable, easy, and accessible, then people will have a viable alternative. And once that infrastructure is properly in place, then we could possibly look at other options, such as demand management and congestion charging policies, but first we need to provide the choice.”
One key focus area is rail-based commuter transport and the statistics underline the transformation that is needed. Currently, the Klang Valley has less than 20km of rail per million population, compared with public transport oriented cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and London, which have an average of 40km of rail per million population.
Already that is being addressed, as Kamal points out, with one Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line approved and about to start construction, and two other MRT lines to follow. There will be enhancements to the existing rail system and new train sets have already been bought for all systems.
“We are building the network to add more capacity where there is demand but no infrastructure. We are also looking to a major upgrade of bus transport, and taxis, to feed that infrastructure and we have already formed strategic alliances with the likes of smart ticketing operators to introduce an integrated, cashless ticketing system. It will take time but we are under way,” says Kamal.
One of SPAD’s first actions was its involvement in the conceptualisation and approval of the mass rapid transit project, now branded as MY Rapid Transit. This mega project falls under the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley key economic area of the Government’s Economic Transformation Plan, which received official approval for implementation in December 2010. SPAD was given a mandate to be the supervising agency for the project, while Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd was made the project owner.
Truly holisticThe MRT network, the backbone of the public transport system in the Greater KL/KV area, is the largest infrastructure project in the country. The first 51km line will run from Sungai Buloh in the northwest of Kuala Lumpur down to Kajang in the southeast of the Federal capital, stopping at 31 stations inbetween. The line is expected to serve a catchment of about 1.2 million people living in densely populated areas, as well as the city centre of Kuala Lumpur. When completed it is expected to carry 442,000 passengers per day.
The holistic nature of SPAD’s approach to a multi-modal system is evident in its taxi transformation plan (TTP) for improving the quality of city taxi services. As Kamal points out: “Unlike rail and bus services, taxis provide flexible door-to-door connectivity and in that respect they are public transport vehicles. They need to comply with certain levels of service and comfort for the public, which has been a problem up to now. We have regulations, but not enough enforcement, and we’re addressing that through optimisation of enforcement powers, technology and better-trained people.”
Regulation and enforcement of bus services is also a key aspect of aligning a multi-modal system holistically. In terms of infrastructure, SPAD is driving forward improvements in bus journey times. Bus express transit (BET) services have been set up. There’s also a programme of establishment of dedicated bus right of way, such as bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and bus lanes, and work with local authorities in the Klang Valley to construct and improve over 1,000 bus stops.
“Some of these initiatives have already demonstrated positive results,” Kamal points out. “For example, the introduction of five BET routes managed to cut journey time significantly which resulted in an increase in patronage of 192%.”
KL's iconic monorail floats above traffic congestion on the streets below every few mintues
‘One ticket, one seamless journey’
Another key initiative is the introduction of integrated smart ticketing. “Studies from the NKRA-UPT laboratory showed that 25-30% of travel time for the average bus commuter is spent queuing or waiting in the bus because of fare payment by fellow passengers,” Kamal explains. “Commuters also need to purchase another ticket when they switch from one operator to another. Therefore the implementation of the integrated cashless ticketing system with a ‘one ticket, one seamless journey’ concept is critical to reduce boarding time and provide a seamless journey to commuters.”
This initiative will also benefit operators since they currently estimate that revenue loss from cash fare transaction is running at 20%, amounting to a total of about US$41M each year. With a cashless ticketing system on board, cash handling will be reduced significantly, resulting in a reduction in this revenue loss.
SPAD is also well advanced with overhauling the operator license framework for buses, as another key part of its strategy. It is replacing the previous system of licensing vehicles with an operator license, supporting objectives of improving transparency, accountability and service quality across the land transport model. Work is also currently well under way in implementing an innovative Performance Management Hub (PMH) as a tool to take this a stage further. Data from operators will be transmitted live to the hub. This will enable SPAD to monitor compliance by operators of service standards and also laws, rules and regulations, including those involving safety and security. The PMH will also serve as a data management centre that will allow inter-agency exchange of information. Its initial area of coverage will be the Greater KL/KV area but in the long term will be extended throughout the country.
SPAD at a glance
SPAD has been given wide powers to transform Malaysia’s public transport system in three key areas:
Planning – Masterplan to ensure comprehensive, integrated and sustainable public transport infrastructure development.
Regulatory – Monitoring and regulating standard performance of operators through licensing.
Enforcement – Enhanced powers, encompassing powers to audit, investigate, suspend or revoke licences, seize vehicles and penalise operators.