Thanks, but free rides won’t solve transport woes

Regular readers of this Diary would know by now how much I detest driving and traffic jams.

But after seeing first-hand how crowded train stations get in the mornings, my heart goes out to the commuters.

That is why I did not celebrate when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the government would subsidise public transportation for those in the Klang Valley for one month, starting Thursday.

These include rides on the mass rapid transit (MRT), light rail transit (LRT), bus rapid transit (BRT), monorail, RapidKL buses, and those taking KTM trains.

The free transportation is in conjunction with the opening of the MRT Putrajaya Line Phase 1.

Initially, I thought it would not benefit those who bought the My50 travel pass at the beginning of the month.

But the authorities announced yesterday that those who had bought those passes could redeem their free rides upon expiry of their travel pass.

That is well and good, but offering free transportation, while a great gesture, will not solve the woes of daily commuters.

It is no secret that commuters have been subjected to longer waits in recent weeks.

People are not happy about it, and I do not blame them.

I witnessed this on Thursday at the Pasar Seni Station, when I had to switch to the MRT train.

I was stunned to see so many people waiting for an LRT train. I do not remember it being that crowded, BC (Before Covid).

Full disclosure, I was not affected as I got on the train at Subang Jaya. My home is about 500m walking distance from the station (it is three times the distance by car).

Wouldn’t it be better to spend that RM155 million to purchase new carriages to shorten the waiting period? That way, more people can enjoy riding the trains (and probably even get a seat during rush hour).

Or how about buying more buses to ensure better connectivity from train stations to the offices, or homes.

I have friends who stay in Ampang who have no choice but to drive to the train station. They then pay for parking there, ride the trains (they switch to MRT en route), and when they arrive at their final stop, either take a taxi or book an e-hailing ride, as it takes too long to wait for a bus.

They are not alone. A friend in Klang goes through the same torture whenever he takes public transportation.

They calculated that it is quicker and cheaper to drive to the office and back.

Besides buses and trains, part of the RM155 million could also be used to upgrade some of the facilities at the stations.

Some toilets are filthy – although the one at the TTDI MRT station was clean.

I have friends who complained that many escalators do not work, and that some areas are not well lit at night.

Some say that more buses would not solve the issue, and that repair works take time because of the wait for spare parts. What the excuse for dirty toilets is, is anyone’s guess.

Giving free transport is purely cosmetic. It does not address the problems faced by commuters.

As a friend said, fixing the problem would show that those in charge are not doing a good job. It is better to cover up the galling inefficiencies by offering free rides to make people “happy”.

Sigh!

MORE NEW CASES THAN RECOVERIES THIS WEEK

The number of new Covid-19 cases increased to 13,777 infections in the past seven days.

That brought the total to 4,536,795.

Recoveries dropped to 10,890, making it 4,475,448 patients who beat the coronavoris. It was the first time in four weeks that there were more new cases than recoveries.

In the past week, there were 22 fatalities, pushing the total to 35,731.

Worldwide, there are 543,760,777 cases and 6,339,718 fatalities.

 

ESCAPE FROM CHERAS

Where is Kurt Russell when you need him? That thought popped into my head as I tried desperately to find my way out of Cheras yesterday.

I pity those who drive to, and from that area, as the ongoing MRT construction and road works make it difficult for those unfamiliar with the roads.

According to Google Maps, it was only a 29-minute drive from Cheras to Subang Jaya, but due to several road closures, I went around in circles, and only reached home after 63 minutes.

It took me nearly two hours to arrive in Cheras.

For those wondering why I thought of Kurt Russell, it is because he was the star of Escape from New York and Escape from LA.

All I wanted to do was to ‘Escape from Cheras’.

COFFEE AND WALNUT LAYER CAKE

It has been a while since we had a Nigella Lawson recipe, so here is one for coffee and walnut layer cake.

MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA

To close out this week’s column, here is a classic from Gladys Knight and the Pips, Midnight Train to Georgia.