Putrajaya and the public transport challenge

On my first day travelling to Putrajaya, I thought I ought to save myself the long drive from my home in Kota Damansara and go there by public transport. I thought as a transport professional, I ought to be setting a good example by going green and leaving my polluting machine at home.

What an experience it was! I would have had to take a bus to the MRT station closest to my house, but that would involve a long waiting time so I got dropped off by car instead. Then a journey by MRT to the Muzium station and a long walk across to KL Sentral to take the ERL KLIA transit service to Putrajaya Central.

From the Putrajaya station, I had no choice but to take a taxi and the journey back was a repeat in reverse. All in, I spent over RM70 there and back. If I were to do this on a daily basis to get to work, as some people do, I would have to spend over RM1,600 a month. This is an exorbitant sum for me as well as the average working person.

How did it all go wrong? Surely we as an environmentally conscious nation would like to encourage the use of public transport over the use of private vehicles. Every day, hundreds of people have to travel to Putrajaya to deal with various departments or agencies such as JPN, immigration and various ministries. Even tourists would like to visit the attractions there.

With no basic public transport backbone or a transit system to begin with, except for some odd buses, taxis and Grab on call, most trips have to be made by car.

In fact, the Putrajaya cityscape was designed with cars in mind and most buildings have wide open spaces that are catered for cars. But what happens if you do not have a car? Or if you do not drive or choose not to drive?

Waiting time

In this respect, I would like to ask the transport minister to undertake a review of public transport provisions for Putrajaya.

Maybe if every minister tried to get to Putrajaya from their home in Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Seremban or anywhere else, they would understand the difficulties and the inadequacies that I mentioned and experienced.

They would probably have to take multiple transport modes and switch stations along their journey which would also involve waiting time.

How many ministers would fancy taking public transport to their office on a daily basis over a week or a month, just like the many others who have to rely on public transport on a daily basis in order to get to their workplace and return home after work?

It is possible to calculate the overall cost for public transport users and the total time spent in order to gauge the effectiveness of the current public transport system. This is necessary to understand how to plan for public transport infrastructure, facilities, services and frequencies.

Some of the questions would be: why didn’t we connect the KTM rail line between Kajang and Putrajaya so that we could have a direct and seamless journey between Seremban and Putrajaya? Once that short link is connected, passengers could also travel directly from KL Sentral to Putrajaya too, via Kajang.

The missing link

There are also many other areas such as Klang, Shah Alam, PJ as well as areas in the north of KL such as Batu Caves, Serendah and even Rawang that already have KTM lines and services which could be connected to Putrajaya in this way. Using existing KTM lines with a small addition of a short missing link between Kajang and Putrajaya would not be that costly, but I believe the benefits would be tremendous.

These journeys would be much faster, with short waiting times and no inter-terminal transfers, and would likely attract more people to use the services. If this so-called missing link could be built from Putrajaya Central to Kajang and pass through the central areas of the government precincts, that would surely enlarge the catchment areas of ERL services too, especially for services to and from KLIA.

We can now understand why some staff arrive late for work and the travelling hardships that many passengers have to endure on a daily basis. We have not managed to solve their mobility problems, and yet we talk about spending billions of ringgit on the LRT, MRT, ECRL and HSR. Let us solve their immediate problems before we embark on large-scale projects costing billions.

Ministers are provided with chauffeur-driven limousines to travel in comfort but other civil servants and workers in Putrajaya are not so fortunate and have to either drive their own cars or take public transport.

I am not suggesting that ministers completely forgo their privileges, but for a short period of time, please experience the fun or difficulties of using public transport to and from Putrajaya. Only then can we appreciate the inefficiencies and inadequacies of our public transport system.

After all, the calls for the general public to use public transport instead of making their journeys to work by car, which is becoming expensive, will the government look into actually making this possible?

It may be a challenge but let’s start with Putrajaya, the federal administrative centre, to improve this aspect of our overall transportation planning before we start talking about other massive rail projects.

Rosli Khan has spent over 30 years in the transport industry, managing more than 100 consultancy projects.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.