Single Regulatory Authority Can Fix Malaysia S Public Transport Crisis


 


From Wan Agyl Wan Hassan
The Auditor-General’s (A-G) recent report on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system has shed light on some serious inefficiencies and gaps in Malaysia’s public transport sector.
This situation calls for a comprehensive approach to tackle these issues head-on.
One viable solution is to re-establish a single regulatory entity, like the former Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), and create metropolitan-based transport agencies to address both national and city-specific transportation needs more effectively.
SPAD was set up under the Government Transformation Programme with the goal of regulating and improving Malaysia’s land-based public transport system. It played a crucial role in developing policies, issuing licences and enforcing standards to ensure safe, efficient and reliable transportation services.
SPAD also worked on planning and developing transport infrastructure, managing funds and engaging with the public to address concerns and gather feedback.
Through research, capacity building and adherence to global best practices, SPAD aimed to elevate the quality and sustainability of public transport in Malaysia.
In 2018, SPAD’s functions were transferred to the Land Public Transport Agency (APAD) under auspices of the transport ministry. However, APAD now functions similarly to the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board, primarily processing licences.
Having a centralised agency for land transportation modelled after the former SPAD is crucial for better coordination, policy development and system efficiency.
Currently, various aspects of land transportation in Malaysia are handled by different agencies, leading to fragmented efforts and inefficiencies.
A centralised body can harmonise these efforts, ensuring that policies and projects are aligned across different sectors and regions. With a dedicated agency, there can be a more focused approach to developing comprehensive transportation policies that address the evolving needs of the country, including emerging technologies, demographic shifts and economic trends.
Centralised management
Centralised management can enhance the efficiency of transportation systems by standardising procedures, reducing bureaucratic red tape, and enabling the swift implementation of best practices and innovative solutions.
This agency should coordinate both public and private vehicles, integrating public transport systems (buses, trains, etc.) and private vehicles (cars, ride-sharing, etc.). This will ensure that policies are inclusive, balancing the needs of different users and modes of transport.
By fostering a collaborative policy environment and bringing together stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, the agency can develop more holistic and sustainable transportation policies. This collaboration can lead to innovative solutions that might not emerge in a more siloed environment.
The agency’s responsibilities would cover several critical areas. New highway projects require careful planning and oversight to ensure they meet current and future transportation demands. A centralised agency can ensure these projects are integrated into the broader transportation network effectively.
Managing toll systems and implementing area road pricing can help control traffic congestion and generate revenue for further transportation infrastructure investments. A centralised body can standardise these systems for greater efficiency and user convenience.
Effective parking management is crucial for urban mobility, and a national approach can harmonise parking regulations, making it easier to enforce rules and optimise the use of available space.
Integrating land use planning with transportation planning ensures that developments are accessible and that transportation infrastructure supports sustainable growth. This coordination can lead to more liveable cities and towns, reducing the need for long commutes and enhancing the overall quality of life.
This centralised agency would establish and enforce uniform service standards nationwide, ensuring high-quality, safe and reliable public transportation services. This would encompass vehicle maintenance, driver training and customer service delivery.
The agency would also monitor and enforce compliance with transportation laws and regulations, implementing a regime of substantial penalties for non-compliance to uphold high standards and deter violations. By setting these benchmarks, the agency ensures consistency and safety across the entire transportation network, fostering public trust and reliability.
National transportation strategy
In planning, the agency would develop and implement an integrated national transportation strategy, coordinating closely with state and local governments to align planning efforts with national transportation goals.
This would ensure that state structure plans and local district plans conform to the national transport policy, promoting cohesive and sustainable development.
A significant aspect of this planning is making public transportation accessible to all passenger segments. By collaborating with local authorities, the agency can improve first- and last-mile connectivity, facilitating easier journey planning for passengers. Moreover, the agency would encourage cities to plan for adequate parking facilities, thereby making car journeys less attractive and promoting the use of public transport.
Empowered with the authority to enforce transportation laws and regulations, the agency would conduct inspections, audits and investigations to ensure compliance. Public safety would be a top priority, with the agency implementing stringent safety regulations and conducting regular safety checks.
Immediate action would be taken on identified risks to ensure the reliability and safety of public transportation. This proactive approach in enforcement ensures that the transportation network remains secure and efficient, enhancing overall public confidence in the system.
Metropolitan-based agencies
While a centralised agency is essential, metropolitan areas like the Klang Valley have unique transportation challenges that require dedicated attention. Establishing metropolitan-based transport agencies can address urban-specific issues effectively.
These agencies would focus on localised planning and implementation, addressing the distinct needs of metropolitan areas with high population densities and significant daily commuter inflows.
They would develop metro-specific solutions to enhance public transport efficiency and coverage and ensure seamless integration of various transport modes, including buses, trains and ride-hailing services, through synchronised schedules and routes.
An example of the potential need for such an agency is the proposed Lembah Klang Raya initiative by Selangor’s menteri besar.
This idea envisions merging several local authorities to improve urban planning and service delivery in the Klang Valley. A dedicated transport agency for Lembah Klang Raya could effectively address the region’s unique transportation challenges by focusing on high-density areas and significant daily commuter traffic.
Similarly, the existence of Perbadanan Pengangkutan Awam Johor (PAJ) showcases the importance of having a mandated state-level agency to manage and regulate public transportation. With the proper state enactment or mandate, PAJ can serve as a model for how state and metropolitan agencies can work within a centralised framework to deliver efficient transportation solutions.
Improving connectivity and integration would involve implementing dedicated feeder services, pedestrian infrastructure, and micro-mobility solutions for smoother connectivity to central transport nodes. Sustainable mobility would be promoted by enhancing the use of public transportation, cycling and walking to reduce reliance on private vehicles and support environmental sustainability.
Centralised communication and collaboration
Public engagement and communication would be facilitated through a centralised communication platform, offering commuters an integrated platform to report issues, provide feedback and access information. This would increase transparency and accountability within the system, ensuring improved service delivery.
Collaboration with stakeholders, including local businesses, community groups and transport operators, would be crucial in developing and implementing effective transport solutions.
Moreover, metropolitan-based agencies would report to the centralised agency, ensuring that plans and policies formulated at the national level are effectively implemented at the metropolitan and local levels.
Learning from successful models globally can provide valuable insights into structuring these agencies.
Transport for London’s (TfL) integrated approach, with unified branding and ticketing systems, ensures seamless travel across different transport modes and could serve as a model for creating a coherent and user-friendly public transport system in Malaysia.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York employs a regional focus that allows for comprehensive planning, public-private partnerships, innovation, and service improvement, an approach that could cater to the specific needs of Malaysia’s metropolitan regions.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore blends land use planning and transport planning with intelligent technologies, offering a model for sustainable urban mass rapid transit systems.
The auditor-general’s report on the MRT underscores the urgent necessity for an integrated approach to public transport reform in Malaysia.
Strategic solution
Centralising the functions of management, regulation, planning and enforcement in an agency like SPAD, along with creating metropolitan-based transport agencies, offers a strategic solution to address contemporary transportation problems at both national and urban-specific levels.
Adopting data-driven decision-making and learning from global best practices will harmoniously develop an efficient and sustainable public transport system that meets the needs of all Malaysian citizens. - FMT
Wan Agyl Wan Hassan is a transport consultant and the former Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) group operations head of policy and planning.
He is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.


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