(Originally published: Oct 2015)
BY Gunaprasath Bupalan
Excitedly, I accepted an invitation to be a panel speaker at the recent Urban Transportation Forum that was organised by the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI). Adding to my excitement was that fact that the discussion was to be centred on strategising and enhancing Malaysian urban public transport.
My session, which I shared with two other property experts – Mr. Siva Shankar (ex-President of the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents) and Dr. Daniele Gambero (CEO of REI Group of Companies) – discussed how MRT, LRT and BRT can provide the needed quantum leap for real estate values nearby.
Well, yes – I agree that public transportation and infrastructure could, and should, enhance the value of surrounding properties. However, this is the same tune that has been playing for more than two decades… with no fat lady singing at the end of it. When will there finally be a conclusion to this matter?
For the longest of time, property journalists like me have been fighting for the creation of affordable homes close to the city centre, but that hope was thrown out the window when urban land prices began spiralling upwards.
Accepting the fact that rising land prices are unavoidable (and perhaps necessary), our course of action then diverted to the provision of affordable units being erected outside the city centre – with the supporting public infrastructure, amenities and transportation solutions in place, of course.
If one was to stay outside the city and work in the city, he/ she would need to be easily connected to the urban centre… this isn’t rocket science!
My worry is how long must this same tune be played before it is finally looked into with serious conviction?
I have noticed that developments that are coming up outside the city centre – like in Semenyih, Rawang, Bangi and Nilai – highlight the fact that they are well connected to the city centre by road. That’s great, but what about those who don’t own a car or a motorbike? Or young start-up families with just one vehicle?
I would like to see our government, transportation ministry, housing ministry and other relevant authorities get more involved by emphasising attention on proper public transportation from these areas to the city.
Come on, you are already migrating people who can’t afford homes above RM500,000 into the outskirts, the least you could do is make it a little more comfortable and convenient for them right?
A little argument cropped up during the forum, based on the notion that Malaysia cannot and should not be compared to Singapore. Despite Singapore’s heavy investment in proper rail connectivity that can get you within proximity of any destination you may want to visit with convenience and punctuality, it was argued that the size of Singapore isn’t comparable to Malaysia.
As much as I would like to use that as an excuse, I sure as heck won’t.
Singapore may be much much smaller than Malaysia, but with regards to public transportation and infrastructure, they are way ahead of us.
What we can’t achieve in Malaysia in its entirety, we can certainly achieve by dissecting our transportation needs into clusters: Subang Jaya, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Petaling Jaya, Damansara. Sure, it is a long list when consider the many urban centres we have, but none on that list can now proudly say that it is a well-connected proper public infrastructure and transportation in place.
How can we argue an ineffective result if we have not even properly begun? I’ll still stick to my guns and say that our powerful government has put in the proper emphasis required to resolve this issue. All that has taken place over the last two decades have been sound bites and rhetoric.
This is a serious matter that needs immediate attention. An average household in the earlier dissected areas would have at least two to four cars parked in their porch – one for each member of the family, who drives to work individually every morning. They park their cars at the office after braving a horrendous traffic congestion on the roads and repeat this again in the evening time.
This goes on every day, week in, week out. Imagine the amount of carbon that is polluting our air. Don’t believe me, test it out for yourself. The next time you are stuck in the rush hour traffic, take a peek around you and count the number of cars that have a single occupant (count yourself too).
If there was convenient public transportation as an alternative, wouldn’t the majority prefer to use it?
So what should the next course of action be? Well, initially there was the LRT, then came the MRT, then now the BRT. Let’s stop adding on more acronyms and realise that the main problem here is the lack of connectivity between these acronyms.
The solution here isn’t adding new modes of transport, but connecting the existing modes with one another and to reach out to greater areas.
So enough with acronyms, because letters mean nothing if they don’t spell something, and I’d like them to spell “s-o-l-u-t-i-o-n”.
Gunaprasath Bupalan is the Executive Director / Executive Editor of Terra Value Sdn Bhd and chairman of the Malaysian Property Press Awards organising committee. He is also a regular speaker and panellist at many property seminars and conferences and shares his property views every Wednesday on the Capital Breakfast Show on Capital FM, 88.9FM.
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