Seeing Kuala Lumpur as enhanced liveability model city

FOLLOWING the relaxation of lockdown measures and reopening of inter-state travels, traffic frequency and volume along major highways, expressways and strategic arteries nationwide during recent weeks have increased substantially.

According to Bukit Aman Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department Deputy Director Datuk Mohd Nadzri Hussain, a total of 4.27 million vehicles travelled along the major highways as of Oct 15 – similar to the pre-movement control order (MCO) period with 4.5 million vehicles a day.

Such a phenomenon is particularly apparent in the city centre of Kuala Lumpur – with more people resuming working in the office or dining in.

And with people from other states driving to KL for business or leisure trips, traffic congestion is getting worse.

The latest TomTom’s Traffic Index revealed that drivers in KLlost 126 hours, or five days and six hours a year, as they require extra time to overcome the rush hour traffic.

The traffic volume in KL is expected to increase further as Standard 1 to 3 primary school students and Form 3 to 4 secondary school students go back to schools for physical learning from Nov 1 onwards.

Despite the current administration introducing My30 travel pass to encourage higher public transportation usage, Malaysians still prefer private vehicles either in the form of car ownership or e-hailing services.

This is due to the longer journey time, low on-time performance (OTP) and lack of safe pedestrian crossings, among others, associated with usage of public transportation.

Malaysians, in general, also prefer not to take public transport during the pandemic as they may not able to apply physical distancing measures properly and effectively especially if crowd control or management is lacking. They would rather drive their own vehicle or use e-hailing services.

In addition, WapCar revealed in their survey (August 2020) that 57.9% of Malaysians are concerned about taking public transportation due to the fear of getting infected by Covid-19. They preferred self-driving as safety measure.

Out of the 318 respondents, 55.4% considered purchasing a car in the next six months as prices are expected to be relatively lower during the pandemic.

Due to a lower cost of car ownership, the Government could not convince more people to shift from private to public transportation.

Meanwhile, the total number of registered vehicles increased by approximately 6% per annum – from 20.2 million in 2010 to 30 million in 2018.

As rising number of car usage has significantly increased carbon emissions, Kuala Lumpur recorded a temperature increase of 1.64°C over three decades (ie. between 1989 and 2019).

A rising urban temperature has contributed to more frequent rainfalls, flash floods, landslides, freak storms and haze in Kuala Lumpur over the past few years.

The Government should start developing more open spaces in Kuala Lumpur to combat the impact of climate change and enhance liveability.

Following are the initiatives that should be implemented for Kuala Lumpur city centre:

  • Installing pedestrian walkways or cycling pathways – promoting not more than 15-minute walking or cycling distance for most shops, parks, leisure facilities and residential areas.
  • Installing more streetlights, road signs and CCTV cameras to promote safety and comfort – discouraging criminal activities and accidents;
  • Creating mini-forests to remove carbon dioxide and air pollution, reduce water pollution and serve as a noise buffer. They also provide habitat for other organisms such as birds and insects to restore biodiversity to cities;
  • Adopting Singapore’s approach by using hydroponics on roofs of car park structures and installing urban farms into existing unutilised buildings; and
  • Providing affordable housing for the urban poor that is equipped with good facilities for better living and learning environment such as playgrounds, mini-parks and community halls equipped with Internet connectivity, learning tools and a library.

EMIR Research also urges the Government to continue to:

  1. Enhance federal-state coordination in terms of public transport and urban planning policies. Initiatives include increasing car-free zones, increasing frequency of public transport service.
  2. Conduct periodic reviews of all short-, medium- and long-term urban development plans and ensuring all strategies are implemented within the specified time frames. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government via the Department of Town and Country Planning (PLANMalaysia) should coordinate closely with the Commonwealth Association of Planners, local city councils and Think City, etc.;
  3. Allocate funding to conduct research and development (R&D) in the area of climate-resilient infrastructure to promote liveability not only in the city centre of Kuala Lumpur but which also could be replicated in other cities such as Petaling Jaya, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Georgetown and Kuching;
  4. Organise regular townhall sessions (i.e., at least once a month) to enable citizen voices to be heard at all levels of government. Local city councils could lead and foster an intergenerational transfer of experience, knowledge and skills; and
  5. Develop more high-skilled and high-income job opportunities in the main cities of Malaysia to ensure more young Malaysians could secure jobs that match their academic qualifications, giving them the ability to earn higher income. A higher employment rate builds upon and leads to more investment, and production and, by extension, higher GDP growth.

The rakyat also must play their role in shifting their mindset by adopting and adapting to public transportation and slowly reduce the usage of privately owned vehicles. – Nov 4, 2021


Amanda Yeo is Research Analyst at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Photo credit: TRX

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