Let me first of all thank ASLI for taking the initiative to organize this conference on Urban Transportation. In my opinion ASLI’s timing could not be better. The Government is currently in the midst of preparing for the 11th Malaysia Plan and Urban Public Transport is a key focus area of the Government. Hence the ideas generated in this year’s Urban Transportation Forum could be used to inform policy-makers as they decide on the new strategies, programmes for urban transport in general and public transport in particular. The two are of course not synonymous as urban transport includes road infrastructure which is of course outside the jurisdiction of SPAD. Our mandate is restricted to trains, buses and taxis.
CURRENT STATE OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Before I explain SPAD’’s roll-out plans for public transport, I would like to do a little-stocktaking exercise. The main Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for urban public transport is the modal share of public transport. The target is 40% by the year 2030. Where are we now? This varies by region. In the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley region, the picture is encouraging. The public transport modal share increased from 16.9% in 2010 to 19.6% in 2012 to 20.8% in 2013. Considering that the travelling base is also increasing, this is indeed a commendable achievement.
The main contributor to this good performance is the existence of the urban rail system and it shows that the Government’s heavy investment in urban rail in this region is paying economic dividends. Although the urban rail network covers a limited area of the region, 2013 statistics show that it carries 600,000 passengers per day. In the morning peak period, rail carries 49% of the total public transport load.
We frequently hear well-meaning but ill-informed criticism that the modal share would be higher if only the Government did not expect public transport passengers to bear the full-cost of their journeys. This is really not true. I would like to point out a little known fact – namely that the Government is heavily subsidising passengers using rail public transport in the GKL/KV region. SPAD did an analysis in 2013 comparing the fare collection and the operating cost using 2012 figures. In the case of the LRT lines, fare revenue covers only 55% of the operating cost and the remaining 45% is implicitly subsidised by the Government. In the case of monorail passengers, the implicit Government subsidy is 30% while in the case of KTMB Komuter services, the implicit Government subsidy is a whopping 75%.
Outside the Klang Valley, the only mode of scheduled public transport is the humble stage bus. SPAD analysis shows that in the 13 state capitals combined, the daily bus ridership is 245,000 and it is our estimate that with this ridership, the modal share of public transport in the state capitals is about 5%. The stage bus industry has been facing several structural problems which threaten its viability as a key component of the overall public transport system.
It currently relies on the fare box revenue model whereby operating costs and investment returns are meant to be covered from passenger fares. However, this model has failed to provide public transport service which is a viable alternative to private cars. Route expansion did not keep pace with the increase in urbanization resulting in the stage bus network serve an increasingly smaller proportion of the urban area. Increasing affluence resulted in high rates of private vehicle ownership and taking into account the relatively lesser coverage of public transport resulted in greater use of private vehicles and lesser usage of stage buses.
Bus operators reacted by cutting unprofitable routes, or reducing frequencies along routes, the net effect being further reduction in service followed by further reduction in patronage, putting the industry in a classic case of a vicious downward spiral. The increasing marginalization of public transport meant that local authorities are extremely reluctant to even consider, let alone take, measures that can assist public transport such as parking restrictions or bus priority in traffic. This further reduces the attractiveness of public transport. Local authorities frequently state that they cannot take traffic management measures until public transport becomes a viable alternative creating a chicken-or-egg situation.
The Government attempted to address the problems of the industry by setting up the Interim Stage Bus Support Fund (ISBSF) in 2011 with an allocation of RM400 million. While ISBSF has helped to arrest the trend of route closures, it has not helped to make public transport a viable alternative to private transport. The fund is used to support stage bus operators meet their operating costs so as to arrest further route closures while a permanent solution is formulated. he lack of a transformative impact from ISBSF is therefore to be expected because as the name suggests, this is meant to be only an interim solution. Nationwide i.e. considering intra-urban, inter-urban and rural areas, in 2013 a total of 900,000 passengers daily have benefited from the Government’s ISBSF subsidy.
SPAD’S TRANSFORMATION ROLL-OUT PLANS
I am sure there are some among you who are thinking – this is all very well. We all know the problems of urban public transport. In every conference and every seminar that we attend, we hear beautiful analysis of the problems. What we want to know is what is the Government going to do about it? What is SPAD as the planning and regulatory agency going to do about it? And let me tell you, I agree with you. You are right to think that. So let me share some things that SPAD is doing to rectify the problems that the urban public transport sector faces.
First the rail sector. One major need is to expand the urban rail network. It is simply too limited at the moment. However I will not dwell too much on the infrastructure improvements that the Government is doing in the Klang Valley. We all know about the MRT1 and MRT2, the LRT extensions and the new LRT line from Bandar Utama to Klang that was announced in the budget speech. One thing that I would like to mention though is that in the coming 11th Plan i.e. for the period 2016 0- 2020 there will be a need to consider urban rail systems in other large towns in the country.
But for today, I would instead like to point out the service improvements that have taken place. In May 2013, the punctuality of KTMB Komuter trains was only 89%. This means that only 89% of the trains arrived within the stipulated window of their scheduled arrival time at a station. Now i.e. in September 2013 it is 97%. The track conditions remained the same, the number of rolling stock remained the same. How did this improvement come about? It came about because we in SPAD monitored train performance so that we have solid data on performance, It came about because KTMB was open and receptive to SPAD’s advice, monitoring and suggestions to making changes in how they deploy the rolling stock to minimize late arrivals. Once we pointed the facts out to them, agreement on corrective measures was easy. So quietly, we in SPAD and KTMB did what we need to do and improved the punctuality of KTMB services. The results are there in increased ridership. In 2013, the average daily ridership on KTMB Komuter was 120,000. In the month of September 2014, the average daily ridership was 130,000 i.e. an 8% increase.
I am not suggesting that the gain of 8% is solely due to improved punctuality. But I am sure that it is one of the factors. We are continuing our efforts at achieving performance improvements through monitoring. For example, currently the stipulated gap to measure on-time arrival for all the urban rail systems is 10 minutes. I feel that this is too long a gap. Hence I have instructed SPAD staff to work with urban rail management to come up with a tighter stipulated time to measure punctuality. In this way, we will be able to offer better services to the public.
We have also behind the scene worked on enhancing safety standards. We have just embarked on developing common railway safety standards for operations and maintenance. This initiative will be completed by September 2015. I don’t mean to imply that currently there are no safety standards. Of course there are. But this is because each operator has its own standards and safety policies, there are no common safety work practices. Hence we have seen accidents which fortunately have not involved passengers but railway staff have become casualties. I believe in being pro-active when it comes to safety. With the establishment of common standards, SPAD will be pro-active in enhancing safety
(iii) Stage buses
Now let me turn to our transformation roll-out plans for stage buses. SPAD has developed the Stage Bus Services Transformation programme to directly address the root problems facing this sector. This programme was also announced in the Budget Speech but not being as glamorous as MRT, did not receive much publicity in the newspapers. Under this programme, the business model for stage bus industry will be transformed from the operators being dependent on fare box collections to a gross-cost service delivery contract model where the Government will contract with the operator to provide a set quantity of service and will be paid a specified rate for it . In brief, under this model, SPAD as the planning and regulatory authority will plan and monitor the routes, frequencies, hours of service, vehicle specifications and operator performance while the stage bus operator will run the service according to these parameters.
As announced in the Budget Speech, this scheme will first be rolled out in 5 state capitals i.e. Kuching, Kangar, Seremban, Ipoh and Kuala Terengganu. I expect the first contracts to be signed by the end of this year and the buses under this new scheme will start to be operational service in the initial area will be on the road by end of March 2015.
(iv) Feeder Services
Now, let me turn to an area which is an intersection between urban buses and urban rail namely feeder buses. An SPAD survey done in November 2013 showed that the door-to-door journey time by urban rail is significantly longer i.e. 1.76 times more than for private cars. This situation does not encourage private vehicle owners to shift to public transport. This longer total journey time arises despite the fact that the on-board travelling time for urban rail is shorter than the in-vehicle travelling time by car. The survey found that generally, morning peak users walk from the rail station to their destination. So the last-mile is not the main problem contributing to the long journey times. The main factor contributing to the long journey times is the time taken to travel from home to the rail station.
When we analysed feeder bus service performance, we find several weaknesses. In many cases, prospective passengers have to wait a long time for feeder buses to arrive. Also when the buses do arrive, the route length can be long and meandering. All this adds to the total journey time faced by passengers who depend on feeder buses to take rail. This shows that the number of buses operating on these feeder routes is lower than optimum. Similarly the long route distances are because the operator tries to cover as much of the catchment area in the single route. This problem arises from the housing land use pattern in Malaysia where the norm for housing estates is link or terrace houses spread out for a relatively large area rather than high-density condominium or dense housing.
I can sympathise with feeder bus operators. Running feeder services is inherently loss-making. This is especially so if we use conventional buses as they are capital-intensive. Hence it is understandable and indeed rational from the operator’s point of view to cover as much of the residential catchment area in a single route with a limited number of buses. But the end result is not at all rational from the passenegr’s viewpoint i.e. long waiting and travelling times for d=feeder services.
I believe that we need to be more innovative in our thinking in providing high quality feeder service. Is conventional bus the only solution? Why can’t we supplement conventional buses with lower-cost environmentally-friendly vehicle which are less capital-intensive? Then we can provide feeder service at more frequent intervals and with more direct routes. To this end, SPAD will be soliciting proposals on how to improve feeder services using lower-cost environmentally-friendly vehicles. The roll-out in pilot residential can commence after we analyze the proposals received.
Taxis are a unique form of public transport. They are the only form of public transport that provides unscheduled services. However they play a very important part of the entire public transport ecosystem in Malaysia. The main roles for taxis are to provide first-mile and last0mile connectivity to those using other forms of public transport, to provide public transport services beyond the normal operation hours of scheduled public transport services and to provide a premium door-to-door public for those who can afford it.
Teksi 1Malaysia or TEKS1M was introduced as a new taxi class, with emphasis on the first & last mile service level. As part of SPAD’s taxi transformation plans, all existing metered taxis must migrate into TEKS1M. This exercise is expected to be completed by 2025. As for non-metered taxis colloquially called hired cars, the transformation plan envisages that existing hired cars in the cities will be converted to TEKS1M, while hired cars in the rural areas are to migrate to a new class called community transit service class, focusing on serving the local residents. The transformation programme will also emphasize upgrading of service standards.
The fleet enhancement component of the has minimum vehicle specifications that ensure passenger safety, comfort and convenience. For example, there will be new standards on minimum headroom, legroom and luggage space for a vehicle to be approved as a taxi. Safety standards are also set. The Centralised Taxi Service System (CTSS) is a technology infrastructure initiative that will serve as the platform to monitor taxi performance. In addition, its integration with the existing booking & dispatch systems aims to enhance passenger booking experience. Initiatives to improve driver behaviour will focus on uplifting the knowledge, skills and image of taxi drivers. This includes code of ethics, driver orientation and train the trainer programme. These approaches are developed and conducted with passengers’ interest in mind, Through the transformation initiatives, it is hoped that the taxi service will be more accessible to the public, at greater comfort and convenience, with the service provided by professional and courteous taxi drivers.
(vi) Integrated Ticketing
The final initiative that I would like to mention here is integrated ticketing initiative. Currently despite what some think there is no integrated ticketing between operators. Even if you use Touch-and-Go cards to travel between two operators e.g. KTMB and Rapid Rail, you have to get out of one system and get into the other. So you will be charged twice and there is no discount in case you are merely transferring from one system to another.
Under the Government’s integrated ticketing initiative which SPAD is implementing, all these will be a thing of the past. Passengers will be allowed to change from one rail operator to another without having to pay twice and thus we can eliminate the transfer penalty that transfer passengers are charged. Similarly public transport users will be able to change from buses to trains and vice-versa within a fixed time frame without having to pay a transfer penalty. Integrated ticketing will therefore bring both convenience and financial benefits to public transport users. This initiative will be in place by the opening of the MRT1 line on 31st December 2016. Eventually we will extend the benefits of integrated to park-and-ride users as well.
I know it is customary to end speeches on public transport with the quote from the former Bogota Mayor Penalosa to the effect that an advanced city is not a place where the poor move about in cars, rather it’s where even the rich use public transportation. However I would like to reach back to an even more ancient quote. Plato in 400 BC said “Any city, however small is in fact divided into two: one the city for the poor and the other the city for the rich". I see public transport as the means to reduce the gap between these two Platonic cities within a city. I am fully aware that the rakyat’s expectations on urban public transport are unlimited while their patience to see improvements is very limited. We in SPAD will strive to satisfy both. I hope that my luncheon address has given you enough food for thought on how we intend to do so.