Why Malaysia Urban Mobility Focuses on Public Transport, not Electric Vehicles
Incentives for electric vehicles and subsidies for green technology companies define many countries’ pursuit of reduced urban traffic congestion and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
But Malaysia is taking a different tack — it wants urban commuters to live closer to the land public transport (LPT) network instead.
The agenda is to get 80% of the nation’s urban population to dwell within 400 metres of a reliable LPT service by year 2030, essentially making LPT services the lynchpin of urban mobility in the Greater Kuala Lumpur by then.
A key component to achieve this is transit-oriented developments (TODs). A TOD is essentially a residential complex in an existing urban area that is within easy access to various transportation options.
As the name implies, the primary focus is allowing residents ease of transit to wherever they need to go from home, thereby enabling much shorter commutes with reliable access to public transport.
The benefits are clear. As TODs are designed to allow residents various mobility options that they can walk to from the comfort of home — think LRT stations at your doorstep, for example — they naturally resolve the common issue of first-mile and last-mile connectivity.
The focus on LPT connectivity will also allow TOD residents the luxury of a cleaner environment, by virtue of a reduced need to own and drive private vehicles to get around. This also creates a strong sense of place within the walkable TOD neighbourhood.
Prasarana Takes Lead
Spearheading this effort is Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, a wholly owned company of the Ministry of Finance, which owns and operates a network of urban rail system spanning 60 stations over 65 kilometres that boasts a daily ridership of 650,000. Its service reliability stands at 99.7% for two Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines and a monorail system line.
If the concept feels familiar, Singapore is also pursuing the same idea via its 24th town under the Housing Development Board (HDB). Called Tengah, the town is located in the western region of Singapore and is designed to be a “forest town” — with homes surrounded by lush, natural greenery amid a myriad of amenities.
A key emphasis for Tengah is to allow residents ease of movement via walking and cycling throughout the town in addition to its land connectivity via the Kranji Expressway (KJE), Pan-Island Expressway (PIE), Brickland Road and Bukit Batok Road. Among its key firsts for a HDB project will be a car-free zone as Tengah’s town centre.
Tengah is well underway, with the first batch of flats set for rollout in 2018. As for Prasarana, its plans are commendable and ambitious yet execution will be key to its success.
Private Sectors Jump on the TOD Bandwagon
One proposed TOD spearheaded by Prasarana is near the existing Dang Wangi LRT station, which is located in the central business district of Kuala Lumpur.
The company is also planning further TODs in the Greater Kuala Lumpur area along upcoming stations for the LRT 3 line extension.
In general, the TODs are expected to include both affordable apartments and small-office home-office (SOHO) units by way of residential component, alongside lifestyle malls and connected via Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the rail services.
Such developments would also include public amenities such as public parking spaces, clubhouses and communal praying spaces for Muslim residents.
However, Prasarana is not alone. Private sector developers have also recognised that TODs are the way forward and havelaunched multiple projects based on the concept. While these projects are mainly still driven by government-controlled entities, the private partnerships highlight the commercial viability of TODs.
One example is the Subang Jaya City Centre, a mixed development by Sime Darby Property comprising serviced residences, corporate office space and a retail mall. It is located next to an upcoming train and Light Rail Transit (LRT) station in Subang Jaya and will offer a park-and-ride facility for the new railway station.
Meantime Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd (MRCB) is driving the Penang Sentral development in the northern region. The project will have both residential and commercial components along with a transport terminal.
Others include Guocoland Malaysia’s DC Residency By Clermont; the Kwasa Damansara township project by Kwasa Land, a unit of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF); and The Bank @ Jalan Ampang, a joint venture between Crest Builder Holdings Bhd and Prasarana.
Electric Vehicles in the Back Seat
Putrajaya’s priorities appear firmly on LPTs rather than Electric Vehicles now — the nation’s investments into LPT infrastructure comes to RM70 billion, the Prime Minister said last October.
It is a massive amount compared to the RM3.5 billion allocation for the Green Technology Financing Scheme (GTFS), for example, which was set-up in 2010 to facilitate financing for green technology companies including those linked to electric mobility.
Despite the focus on TODs rather than Electric Vehicle incentives and related subsidies, electric-based transportation remains in the picture as Prasarana has indicated that the BRT may utilise some electric buses.
Additionally, its public rail systems are also wholly electric and residents may also be able to access Electric Vehicle car-sharing services down the road.
The government’s overarching aim is improving vehicle availability as well as boosting accessibility and connectivity vis-à-vis urban mobility. The commitment is there: a key component of LPT drive is a three-line Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project that was approved in 2010.
It is the biggest infrastructure project Malaysia has embarked on to date. The first line, covering 51km between Sungai Buloh and Semantan, cost RM21 billion and begun operating in December 2016.
Meantime the third phase is expected to extend from Ampang Jaya to Bukit Bintang and Damansara City Centre and Mont Kiara. All lines would be integrated with each other.
The Light Rail Transit 3 (LRT3) Klang – Shah Alam – Petaling Jaya line is scheduled to begin construction work in 2017 and is expected to be completed by Aug 31, 2020 with a capped cost of RM9 billion. The LRT3 project will have 26 stations, spanning 37km, including one underground station. Five of the stations would be integrated with existing or new transit lines.
In turn, the more MRT and LRT lines are built, the more opportunity arises for TODs.
So with the big bucks being thrown into land public transportation infrastructure, expect more TODs to pop up around Greater Kuala Lumpur — Electric Vehicles are set to remain in the back seat for a while longer.
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