Better your services before you buy new electric buses, public transport experts tell the national transport company.
Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit (TRANSIT) representative Muhammad Zulkarnain said RapidKL’s plan to buy new electric buses would help cut transit costs.
“RapidKL can have the latest, sophisticated and energy-efficient buses, but if services are hampered by traffic delays and obstacles and route complexity on local roads, I doubt the savings will be significant to justify the investment,” he told FMT.
He added that electric buses also needed charging stations, and implied that they could be expensive. Last week, RapidKL said that it was planning to buy 15 to 20 electric bus models two years from now.
According to RapidKL bus division director Zohari Sulaiman, a new electric bus could cost between RM800,000 and RM1.2 million, several hundred thousands more than diesel models.
Zohari said that these buses, though more expensive, would cost less in the long run, as they do not rely on diesel.
Zulkarnain (photo right) questioned why RapidKL was eager to get these buses, when it did not make its bus schedules and route maps available on both its website and at their stations.
He said that before going for new bus models, the company should focus on optimising its routes first. Such a move however, he said, needed help from everyone involved in public transport, especially the local councils.
As an example, he said transit agencies in the US and Canada concentrated on making sure that roads there were more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly, as well as better planned for buses.
Look at new technology
“Instead of running plenty of infrequent buses to reach pedestrian catchments within sprawling suburbs, some of the agencies are now making it easier for pedestrians, increasing the bus stop pacing, rationalising routes and making the buses run more frequently,” he said.
Zulkarnain added that this was possible without having to add more buses on the roads. He, however, lamented that the multi-billion-ringgit My Rapid Transit (MRT) project got more attention than anything else.
TRANSIT director Moaz Yusuf Ahmad agreed with Zulkarnain’s sentiments. He said that previous RapidKL chief executive officer Rein Westra was focused on getting the company’s buses to run frequently, instead of looking at new technology.
“Westra told me that his focus was to establish quick, reliable RapidKL bus service such as five-minute and 10-minute frequencies for city and trunk buses… using regular diesel buses rather than investing scarce capital into more expensive technologies,” he said.