Many solo drivers on the road? Change takes time, says transport minister

Transport Minister Anthony Loke says there is already a positive change in the attitude of Malaysian commuters towards public transportation, as there are 100,000 people who have subscribed to the government-subsidised monthly travel pass. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Transport Minister Anthony Loke says there is already a positive change in the attitude of Malaysian commuters towards public transportation, as there are 100,000 people who have subscribed to the government-subsidised monthly travel pass. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 — Transport Minister Anthony Loke today acknowledged a recent survey, which revealed that over 87 per cent of Klang Valley residents drive alone to work.

He said a mentality change can counter this culture but admitted that it takes time.

Speaking at a press conference here, Loke said there has already been a positive change in the attitude of Malaysian commuters towards public transportation, as on average, there are 100,000 people who have subscribed to the government-subsidised monthly travel pass.

However, he said more time is needed, especially given that the current LRT3 line expansion is undergoing connectivity upgrading works.

“That is a norm in Malaysian society. But how to encourage the use of public transport? Over the years the government has spent a lot of money in terms of upgrading the infrastructure.

“I don't agree that our public transportation system is not on par. If you look at our public transport system, we have the brand new MRT. We have upgraded our LRT and so on. So as far as our infrastructure is concerned, we try to provide better facilities, and we want to provide more carrots in order to encourage people.

“That's why we came up with the monthly pass by subsidising cost and to reduce the public transportation cost, to encourage people to use public transport to go to work. But that of course will take time, in terms of changing behaviours and habits of Malaysian workers,” he said.

Loke said the increase in the number of those subscribing to the monthly travel pass is by itself a progress, “but it will not solve all the problems”.

When asked about the possibility of imposing a congestion charge for cars entering the city, Loke said that the government does have policy ideas to counter the problem, but lamented that Malaysians however, would be apprehensive of it.

“Definitely, if the government wants, we can do. We have many policies too, to discourage people from using their own cars.

“As I said, I do not want to go into that (congestion charge) yet first, because Malaysians always look at things very negatively,” he said, adding that the government wants to instead give incentives to encourage more people to use public transportation.

On Monday, the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS) said that after surveying close to 5,000 vehicles, it found that 87.3 per cent of Malaysians who work in the Central Business District (CBD) in Kuala Lumpur drives alone to work.

The remaining 11.6 per cent were found to travel with one passenger on board, while only 0.9 per cent travel with two passengers on board.

The think tank has placed its researchers in several stations to tally its findings, namely; Ampang, Seri Kembangan, Sungai Buloh and Petaling Jaya.

Cent-GPS said that from its qualitative study of the result, it was found that many prefer driving alone to work owing to comfort and the need to spend some “alone time” to gather their thoughts or listen to their favourite music and podcasts, without the need to entertain their passengers. It pointed out that the other lingering problem is the issues associated with public transportation.

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