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Congestion Charge for KL. A case of cart before the horse.

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A common sight in KL - broken down public buses causing even more jams

Recently, the government announced their intention to introduce a congestion charge to relieve worsening traffic in KL. My first response was to throw my hands up in the air.

My second was to tweet @khairykj (Rembau MP Khairy Jamaludin) and ask him to pass the message to the government that they can’t think of introducing congestion charges without first addressing our deplorable public transport. (For the record, he did reply and said that he would do so when the time came!)

Singapore has had a congestion charge since 1975 with a manual sticker system that evolved into the sophisticated electronic road pricing (ERP) system we see today.

The ERP works very well. So well that there is hardly any chance of evading it. Each car new or old is equipped with a reader and cashcard which is auto-deducted when the driver passes through a gantry hooked up with electronic sensors during peak drive times. ERP charges range from S$0.50 to a hefty S$3.50 depending on time and location of the entry point.  Following the success of Singapore’s ERP, London also followed suit with its own congestion charge system in 2003.

Whereas Singaporeans and Londoners have an undisputedly efficient public transport system which they can fall back on if they can’t bear the cost of private motoring, it’s a completely different story for KL.   

Based on DBKL estimates, there are about a million private vehicles in KL alone, with a population of about 1.4 million (2000 National Census). That’s a lot of cars and who can blame people for wanting to own one if the public transport system is so poor?

There is simply no master plan for KL’s public transport system. For example, the government announced extensions of the LRT line to Puchong (costing RM300mil) and Subang Jaya – but both these areas are affluent areas with high car ownerships – how sure are they of demand when these expensive extensions are built? Couldn’t the money have been better spent upgrading the deplorable bus system to meet ready demand in KL? (A transport consultant pointed out that Sentul-KL, Kepong-KL and Gombak-KL bus routes already form more than 30% of total ridership)

Nobody in their right mind thinks planning the KL transport system is an easy job. But at least, go back to basics first and relook the planning at a macro level rather than announce knee jerk responses that only solve short-term problems but do not address the longer term pain.

I regularly take the LRT from my work place for my business appointments at the KLCC area as the KL Sentral station is conveniently located and connected to major city stations. Why can’t we just meet the demand for public transport where they exist and stop resorting to “politically popular” exercises like the suburban extensions.

(Just added!) Take part in this poll – and let’s see how you really feel!

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About hewyk

I'm a father of 2 boys, working in a tech company in Malaysia with access to some of the best multimedia gadgets and services.

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