Monday, October 02, 2006

Swimming trunks

Nah. Nothing to do with that today. Was thinking about "trunk bus services" (kinda like the topic of the day). And I just thought some kinky vocabulary can sex up a topic as boring as public transportation.

Pick up a copy of The Star today, turn to N48 to the Letters to the Editor pages.

Oh bother. I'll just copy the whole thing for you.
RapidKL needs to iron out problems

I REFER to the letter by Moaz Yusuf (RapidKL on the move, The Star, Sept 26). I wonder whether the writer had taken the bus before writing his comments. I have. (KLC: Ouch!)

I tried taking bus 616 from Kerinchi back to Uptown PJ; the first time I waited for 35 minutes, the second, more than one hour from 4pm and it never came (the stated frequency was 15 minutes). I called the helpline and was told that there would be two buses that day, and “maybe” the delay was caused by traffic jam.

These are some problems with the new system:

lThe design of bus routes: they have applied the LRT interchange concept to the bus system. KL Sentral, Uptown and 1 Utama are the stations for interchange. For instance, if I want to travel from Kota Damansara to KL, I have to take bus 613 to Uptown, then change to bus T82 to KL Sentral, then take another bus there or LRT to KL. Sounds simple? But, every change means another 10-15 minutes wait, or longer!

lThe bus fare: they have divided the buses to two types, green for short distances, (for example, Uptown to Bandar Utama) charging RM1, and blue for main routes (e.g. BU to KL Sentral). All tickets are one day passes which can be used all day long. But, if I travel from BU to Uptown, and buy a RM1 ticket which only the green buses sell, and on my way back should the blue bus comes first, I’ll have to pay another RM2 or, wait.

The bus routes are too complicated: they changed all the previous LRT feeder buses into green buses, and added another 25 bus routes (without having enough buses to provide punctuality). If it took me two days to understand the bus routes, how long will it take the tourists and illiterates?

Petaling Jaya

I'll admit to you. I live in KL, not in the Selangor townships. In fact I live very near a busy main road. And I never need to travel very far to get to work. I never really need to use trunk services very much.

Phoon highlights 3 points. I think I've talked about one.

Point 3, about routes being too complicated, I have talked about the rubbish route information being posted up at places such as here, here, here and here. The people who need to understand the system find route information complicated, and those who don't need to learn the routes are those that would find it easy. Think: spider maps, journey planners, website

Point 1, about accumulated waiting times. IN THEORY, if all the buses are as frequent as claimed, I think the savings in waiting time can be achieved. Afterall, that was the main reasoning behind the revamp, no? Remember, the promise:
He (Rein Westra, CEO) said the local shuttle service will be available every 15 minutes and trunk service at every 10 minutes. He said the public is able to achieve a saving of minimum 10 to 20 minutes with this new network compared to the old.
But recently, Rapid KL officially changed some of its service promises. I'm not sure how this would help. Although I think, not at all.

If it is a fleet problem - go and buy more! If it is a shortage of drivers - what the hell is HR doing? If it is a problem of congestion - what happened to bus lane enforcement and talking to Bandaraya etc? And what are your consultants doing?

Point 2, why should I pay trunk fares when I travel short distance? In a nutshell, if you usually take a local shuttle (which costs RM1/day) for a journey and you see a trunk bus which is also heading to where you want to go, why can't I use my local shuttle ticket on the trunk?

(I like you Mr Phoon, because unlike most other people who criticize public transport, you point out the not so obvious. It's not all about buying more buses, adding more bus lanes, lowering fare prices, buying more train coaches la la la.)

This whole scenario points out why I am quite ambivalent about the new bus pass structure, where NO single tickets are issued. With regards to fares, it works pretty nicely IF everyone travels a lot. But for people who travel short distance, they are penalized. Either by the fact that they are making journeys that are worth less than what they have paid. Or because of the silly things that people have to do to make their passes worth it (like in the case Phoon pointed out).

There are many ways to fix this, but this is what I'd suggest (again!):
  1. Make Touch 'n Go (or other stored value cards) the default payment system. No problem as the MyKad has the TnG embedded anyways. Also sell TnGs at newspaper vendors etc. And try to push for adoption of TnG as a universal payment system, as good as cash in Malaysia.
  2. Reintroduce single fares and scrap Local/Trunk/City passes.
  3. Introduce price capping. Once users make enough journeys in a day, card functions as a pass.
  4. Reintroduce TnG readers at the rear exit of buses so that users touch on the way out, like in Singapore's buses or in the Cityliner. Do this so that Phoon and others can hop on a Trunk bus, make a Local journey and pay Local price.
  5. Revamp the whole system-wide fare structure as well (including other operators and rail systems included). Abolish "starting fares". The systemwide fare structure needs to be rethought
I guess the whole point of Phoon's letter is that if Rapid KL really wants its bus system to be the successful (and I guess that would mean profitable, happy customers, high ridership) then it has to rethink how its operations need to be restructured, now that it has all the hardware.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was nice to read the comment by Phoon HB, and your take on it.

Yeah, he is right in many ways. Yeah, RapidKL needs to improve its operations. Yeah, he got me with the barb...good for him.

Below is the letter I sent to the Star in reply. Too bad it was never published (too bad).

Cheers, MYA

Dear Editor

RE: RapidKL needs to iron out problems (October 2)

Phoon H.B. of Petaling Jaya wonders if I had used the new RapidKL service before making my comments about the new system. The answer is yes. Since the new service began in January I have used RapidKL buses extensively, and even more since the new service came to Subang Jaya.

My experiences on RapidKL buses under the new system have been good and bad. I have waited for buses that did not arrive, got down at "interchanges" that were no more than empty empty parking lots, choked on diesel fumes at Medan Pasar and KL Sentral, and gotten confused again and again.

In that time I have visited areas throughout the Klang Valley that I had never seen before and spoken to many different people. I have talked to, and argued with drivers and passengers. I have filled page after page of my notebooks with notes and suggested improvements. and I have sent my suggestions and concerns to the newspapers, government ministers, and of course to RapidKL.

Of course things are not perfect. Of course it will take time for people to get used to the system, and of course there is much room for improvement.

But give RapidKL some credit. They are trying their best, and they have accomplished a lot in only 2 years.


Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
Subang Jaya, Malaysia

6:30 PM  
Blogger commuter said...

Hi Moaz

I am a bit unsure about whether this new system is any good or bad.

Like in my recent posts, this recent "revamp" is actually a host of initiatives that people seem to confuse each other with.

Firstly there is the fleet revamp. New buses. More buses. This is undoubtedly GOOD. Only passes issued, no singles. I think this is undoubtedly a BAD thing. Why can't single tickets be issued in addition to passes? Just price singles at half (fair?) the current pass values. 50 sen - RM1 each. Why not?

At the end of the day, I am most disappointed with the attitude and work ethic of drivers and Rapid KL staff. After all the hardware investment, these people still behave like little Napoleans.

And the same goes with other passengers who still don't get it. Not lining up when boarding. Trying to sneak in from the back. Standing on bus stop seats. Throwing rubbish on buses. Not giving up seats to people who need it most.

As for trying their best, I am not sure. How do you know? I don't think many drivers and staff are. Their PR is horrible.

Look at how information is disseminated. How did they handle the LRT breakdowns? How about the route frequency changes which they quietly changed?

And if it is their best, it is still not good enough.

And with a lot of money poured in and a lot of power delegated to them, how can you expect Rapid KL and SPNB to achieve anything less?

Still, I am willing to give them credit (whenever its due) and the benefit of doubt. But until when?

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RapidKL has made a mistake in overpromising and underperforming in the past year. Still, as compared to other companies they have done more.

How long to give them the benefit of the doubt? I have told them that 1 year is enough...1 year from the date of the introduction of their system

So by January 16, 2007 I would hope to see RapidKL meeting their headway promises, fixing the bus bays, redesigning interchanges and hubs, training their drivers, etc.

After March 1, 2007, (1 year after the date when they started Area 2 service) the gloves are off.

Cheers, mya

12:25 PM  

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