Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kuala Lumpur:Urban Sprawl And Crawl

Hantu Laut

I have written a number of articles about Kuala Lumpur as a growing metropolis particularly the mishmash urban development and its horrendous public transportation system.It has one of the worst taxi services in the world and a limping public transportation system.

To add to its woes, productivity in the service industry is still much to be desired compared to other growing economies in the region.

As a simple measure, go to any fast food chains in KL or anywhere in Malaysia, it's normal to wait 10 minutes before you get your food delivered to you, which loses the very essence of a fast food outlet.Some Chinese and Indian hawker's stalls can serve food much faster than franchise chains like KFC and McDonald. People who goes for fast food either go for the price or they are time constrained.

My KL friends used to laugh at me and think I am talking cock when I say KL is becoming a dysfunctional city.Its ostentatious looks tells a different story. You have to be a world traveller to understand whether a city is fully functional or not and Kuala Lumpur is not one of them.Some American and European cities are not much better.

I used to hate Manila,Jakarta and Bangkok with the terrible macet (traffic jam).I used to do day trip to Bangkok and Jakarta before, go early morning flight, finished doing my business and returned same day to Singapore, where I used to live.

Unless, you have been to many other cities of the world you wouldn't have a clue how to rate a city.The World Bank has came up with a report here deriding KL as a poorly planned and inefficient city due to bad and poor planning.

The haphazard urban sprawl has brought with it the big urban crawl.Bumper to bumper traffic is a common sight in KL.The city planners are not forward looking, lack planning skills, or just couldn't care less.In spite of building more roads and flyovers at great costs they have not been able to resolve the problem.

Malaysia, should change its "five-year" plan policy and look at longer term planning.Five years is too short and infrastructures could be quickly overwhelmed.

A good example of poor foresight is the LCCT in Sepang, which is now at bursting point creating great discomfort to travellers, while the bigger KLIA main terminal is grossly under utilised.Arrived anytime during the day, one would not fail to see there are only MAS aircrafts parked on the tarmac.

Malaysian Airports (MAB) is solely to be blamed for the poor traffic, they have failed miserably, to attract foreign airlines to KLIA with their uncompetitive pricing and lack of facilities.KLIA, must be one of the few airports in the world that has no bars where weary travellers can unwind themselves. The travesty! They sell all kind of alcohol beverages in the duty free store and serve the same on the national carrier.Foreign airlines still prefer Singapore and Bangkok as transit stops.With the type of management running the airport KLIA would continue to stay a ghostly airport.Mahathir's dream of taking away business from Singapore would forever stays a dream.

Kuala Lumpur is also the most pedestrians unfriendly city.Try walking along Bukit Bintang and the multitudes of steps ups and downs that make walking a knee-crunching experience, particularly for the elderly. Take a walk at Orchard Road, Singapore and see the vast difference between the two.It tells a lot about the city planners in both cities.Singapore, has also made its roads, streets and buildings handicap friendly.

KL also have poor maintenance culture.I once went to KL Tower to get aerial view of the city and took some photographs.It's such a disgrace, the glass that surrounds the viewing deck were all dirty, stained, probably never been cleaned since the day it was installed, leaving it to the mercy of the elements.

In anticipation of the big urban migration, Kuala Lumpur should have planned and built its mass transit system some 15 years ago.The excuse given before, if I remember well, was because of high water table the mass transit couldn't go underground, which now appears to be completely untrue.

Although it sits on karstic limestone with high water table there are technology that can do the job available more than a decade ago.Bangkok, suffers from the same phenomenon of high water table but have overcome it and now have in place a fully functional underground network.

The Smart Tunnel completed in 2007 using tunnel boring machines (TBM) was an example of such technology.Now, taxpayers would have to pay more building the mass transit, which, I believe, is again being planned haphazardly.

The first attempt, a politically motivated project and an attempt at bumiputras eugenic engineering was a costly disaster.The government eventually have to take over the STAR and PUTRA transit system which is a far cry from being a true mass transit.

The proposed mass transit would be the most expensive project ever undertaken and probably would suffer many rounds of cost overrun..... Malaysian style.... that put money into the wrong pockets.

Most cities in the region have built their mass transit decades ago.

Seoul completed its first Metro line in 1974, Hong Kong in 1979, Singapore 1987 and Bangkok in 2004. Only Jakarta,Manila and Kuala Lumpur do not have a fully functional mass transit.

It tells you something about Malaysia,Indonesia and the Philippines and the quality of leadership.

1 comment:

vinnan said...

KL a city designed by UMNO and screwed up by UMNO.