Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Buses cannot replace MRT

Buses cannot replace MRT, says EIA report
By Clara Chooi

February 22, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 — An alternate bus system cannot replace the proposed Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) as it is likely to fail the desired passenger ferrying rate, according to the MRT’s key report.

The advocated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is seen to struggle to reach 30,000 passengers per hour in any direction as analysed by the controversial project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

ERE Consultancy Group said in its EIA report that the bus solution would require 90-passenger vehicles to run uninterrupted nearly every 10 seconds — to match the MRT’s 30,000 passengers per hour per direction (PPHPD).

“The BRT proposals are not however long term solutions which can realistically offer sufficient capacity and level of service to deliver the expected demand levels and meet modal shift target,” the firm reported in Section 4 of its detailed EIA.

The EIA was prepared for the government’s multibillion ringgit proposed MRT project, which is touted as the most expensive construction project ever undertaken in Malaysia with initial estimates totalling over RM36 billion.

In the new rail system, the government aims to achieve a transport mode ratio between public and private transport of 40:60 from 18:82 due to an estimated increase from the present eight million trips made each day in the Kuala Lumpur metropolitan area to 10 million trips by 2020.

With the 40:60 transport mode ratio, it is targeted that at least four million trips are made via public transport by 2020 while the remaining six million trips are through private vehicles.

The EIA also explained that the mode share for rail use in the Klang Valley was expected to increase five-fold by 2020 from 400,000 trips per day in 2009 to 2 million trips in 2020.

It added that the MRT’s first line, the Sungai Buloh – Kajang route, is estimated to have a daily ridership of 442,000 passengers in its opening year, expected to be in 2016.

The EIA report was released on February 14 and is presently up for public viewing at Department of Environment (DOE) offices nationwide and several public libraries until March 15.

The Malaysian Insider reported yesterday a suggestion by transport advocates Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit or “Transit” that the ambitious MRT project could be replaced by the BRT.

The group’s chairman Muhammad Zulkarnain Hamzah said that a well-developed BRT could achieve the same aim as the MRT but at a fraction of the cost.

As an example, he said that the cost to construct 1km of an underground MRT rail could amount to RM1 billion while 1km of a BRT line would only cost up to RM20 million.

But the EIA found that the BRT, as one of the project options considered as an alternative to the MRT, was only viable to serve as an “intermediate mode” to facilitate the MRT.

This, the report said, was to help provide the needed momentum change towards public transport in a relatively quick and low cost manner for the later implementation of higher capacity models.

The report noted that in the government’s National Key Results Areas (NKRA), there were plans proposed for the establishment of new prioritised radial bus corridors, including the implementation of the BRT.

“The BRT is appropriate for development of public transport usage in corridors which currently have low public transport share.

“In the Kuala Lumpur context, the BRT should be considered as ‘intermediate mode’,” the report said.

It explained that using the BRT in Malaysia was not realistic as in order to serve the 30,000 PPHPD target, “30m bi-articulated” BRT buses running at 30-second intervals would be needed, as well as two dedicated bus lanes in each direction and a central station lane.

This, it said, meant that highways would have to be as wide as five lanes, much like the BRT system used in Bogota, Columbia.

When suggesting the BRT, Zulkarnain had cited figures from Bogota’s BRT as an example.

He told The Malaysian Insider that Bogota’s BRT buses record passenger travels of more than 20,000 PPHPD but if the BRT lanes were dedicated merely to cars, especially single occupancy vehicles, a maximum of only 2,000 PPHPD can be reached.

“It is not feasible to allocate this level of at-grade capacity in the city areas which the radial service must directly connect to,” the EIA report said.

It also said that the average speed of the BRT was considerably lower than the MRT, meaning that over longer corridors, travel time would be significantly longer.

In its report, ERE estimated that BRT buses, with an average passenger load of 90 passengers per car, travelled at a speed between 20 and 30 kilometres per hour (kph) while a four-carriage MRT, with an average passenger load of 250 per car, averaged between 35 and 70kph.

The EIA added that the quality of service with the BRT was not as high as the use of trains and commuters were likelier to opt for the MRT instead of hopping on the bus.

“The scenario of using bus services tightly packed with passengers (standing room only) as would be required at this level of demand is not likely to attract affluent car users onto public transport, which is an essential element to impact modal shift,” said the report.

In the same section of the EIA, ERE also listed street trams, the monorail system and the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) systems as other project options to the MRT.

The report noted that street trams was likely an inappropriate option as passenger demand would far surpass the mode’s capacity and land in the city centre was too constrained to facilitate the construction of tram lines.

Similarly, the report found that the city’s present monorail system would not adequately operate on the corridors that the MRT aims to serve.

For the LRT, the report said that the present rail system would not be able to facilitate an eventual capacity of 40,000 PPHPD, which is targeted with the MRT.

There was no reason given.

The report said that the MRT system was one of “high-capacity and high quality service”, with major interchange stations located in high-demand areas in the city centre.

“High accessibility to the surrounding land developments is essential to enable a shift from the current high proportion of private car usage,” said the report.

It added that the MRT, set to kick off construction in July, would form the backbone of the country’s transport system.

“This is part of an integrated network with seamless connectivity between supporting modes to make it the preferred mode, design will emphasise on its convenience, reliability, pleasant usage, affordability, accessibility and efficiency.

“And as such, the MRT system was deemed the most appropriate system for Kuala Lumpur,” it concluded.

In the first phase of its three-line proposal, the Klang Valley MRT will have 35 stations along its 51km line that stretches from Sungai Buloh to Kajang, with 13 proposed park-and-ride stations and four interchanges.

Eight of the stations will be underground as 9.5km of the line will be built under the capital city. Groundwork for the MRT is due to start this July 16 and will be completed in 2016.

The proposed alignment map is up for public viewing until May 14 at seven locations across the city.

They are Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Petaling Jaya City Council, Shah Alam City Council, Selayang Municipal Council, Kajang Municipal Council as well as the Bangsar LRT station and the SPAD office in Menara Dayabumi.

The public can provide their feedback on the project via email to feedback@kvmrt.com.my or through the SPAD toll-free line at 1-800-82-6868.