Monday, May 9, 2011

Bus Rapid Transit can solve congestion woes in KL

THE Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) is studying the feasibility of introducing dedicated bus lanes with barriers in the city.
If implemented, this could well be the answer to the worsening congestion woes in the capital. And if workable, perhaps the system can be replicated in other jam-plagued cities in the country too.

According to reports last week, the dedicated bus-only lanes will have barriers all along the route to separate stage buses from busy traffic on main roads. The concept, to be known as the Bus Rapid Transit or BRT, will allow stage buses to ply their route without obstruction.

Currently, the yellow-lined bus lanes in parts of the city that were supposed to be used only by buses and taxis daily, except Sundays and public holidays, are not being taken seriously. Errant motorists and motorcyclists have been encroaching onto these lanes, especially during heavy traffic, and obstructing bus movement. Buses and taxis that were supposed to use the lanes have also not stayed on their side of the deal.

By using physical barriers to prevent other motorised traffic from encroaching onto the dedicated lanes, hopefully the buses will arrive on time and move commuters from one busy part of the city to another without delay. The separated lanes, I think, should also be opened to emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire engines during peak hours when there is congestion of the main traffic stream.

Although the system can reduce jams and improve commuting by bus, the dedicated lanes with barriers should also be made at least two buses wide to cater for any bus breakdowns. If you have been driving around the city, you will notice that a week seldom passes without seeing a stalled bus on a busy thoroughfare that adds to the jam.

The authorities will also have to make sure that bus drivers do not turn certain spots along the dedicated lanes into ad-hoc depots for them to have a tea break or wait for passengers when commuting traffic is low.

I think the current dedicated lane system for buses and taxis has failed because of the lack of enforcement by the authorities. You only need to stand at any area along Jalan Raja Laut at 6pm on workdays to see how the errant motorists break the law and treat the dedicated lane as their own and get away with it. Bus drivers too can be seen moving in and out of the lanes to get ahead of their competitors.

If the barrier system is to be successful, the authorities should also expect challenges from the city's ever increasing number of motorcyclists. Will the barriers be made high enough to prevent encroachment by motorcyclists? Already, some of them are riding on the fast lane of busy roads and riding on pavements meant for pedestrians when encountering jams on main roads.

Who is to stop these errant motorcyclists from using the new dedicated bus lanes as their racing track?

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