MRT Line 1: The good, the bad & the Ugly

Featured Image: MRT Corp

An honest review of Klang Valley’s most exciting rail network to date.

With 31 stations spread across 51 km, the Klang Valley MRT (KVMRT) Line 1 which fully opened on 17 July 2017 now makes it possible for one to commute from Sungai Buloh in northwest Selangor all the way to Kajang in the southeast of Klang Valley via rail. With a development cost of roughly RM23 billion, the KVMRT 1 is by far the largest infrastructure development project undertaken by the Malaysian government. This new public transportation service is facilitated by trains which run at a frequency of 3.5 minutes, each bearing a total capacity of 1,200 passengers.

Source: www.bigkl.com

Having been in operation for almost half a year now, we’ve taken a step back to assess the MRT’s particular strengths and spillover effects as well as to highlight a few weaknesses which could be improved on. Check out our scorecard below:

THE GOOD

Seamless & Convenient Commute

→Yay to Rail Integration

Seven of the MRT1 stations are integrated with existing rail networks, i.e the LRT Ampang Line, LRT Kelana Jaya Line, KL Monorail, KTM Seremban and KTM Port Klang  – making it super convenient for KLites to travel to almost every locality in the Klang Valley via rail. The whole integrated magic can be viewed below:

Source: klcityguide.my

A lot of thought has been put into the whole integration process to ensure commuters’ comfort and safety. The MRT stations are properly interconnected with existing rail networks either through shaded walkways or underground tunnels. For instance, the underground Merdeka MRT station is connected with the concourse level of Plaza Rakyat LRT station via a walkway that comes complete with travellators! It is fully air-conditioned too, while skylights lend a nice touch to the whole commute experience.

Besides that, the paid-to-paid walkway means that passengers do not have to go through fare stands or purchase new tickets.

The travellators lend and airport vibe, reminiscent of KLIA2

→Time & Cash Savings

With fares ranging from RM1.20 to RM6.40 between the Sg Buloh and Kajang stations, the commute price is deemed pretty affordable by many, especially when compared with expenditure on petrol, parking and vehicle wear and tear. Moreover, senior citizens, students and the disabled enjoy a 50% discount on fares, while children below 7 travel for free.

Commuters can expect an 84-minute journey from end-to-end, where the commute between stations does not exceed 4 minutes –  a sweet deal indeed considering the daily gridlock between these popular localities during peak hours.

Source: Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD)

For instance, the drive from TTDI to KL Sentral could take you up to 30 minutes whereas the commute via MRT takes one only 12 minutes.  Besides escaping the stressful aspects of slow-moving traffic, you get to catch up on some reading or squeeze in a nap!

Increased Mobility to Densely Populated Areas

KLites are united in their struggle in dealing with traffic jams – thousands of urbanites spend hours on the road each day, commuting to and fro work. As highlighted in “Unlocking Cities”, a recent report published  by the Boston Consulting Group,  the average KL driver spends nearly:

  • 20 days a year in traffic and looking for parking.
  • RM16,000 on traffic and parking costs each year.

The MRT 1 is a mobility holy grail for working professionals, students and even tourists as it provides direct connectivity to major office hubs, commercial hotspots and universities which previously were not serviced by any other public transportation linkages and were only accessible via bus or car. These include:

A) Bandar Utama Sation – next to One Utama Shopping Mall and nearby One World Hotel, Plaza IBM, KPMG Tower and 1 First Avenue.

B) Semantan station  – Help University, Wisma UOA Damansara, Wisma UN, Wisma MBSB and Wisma Perintis are within walking distance.

Aerial view of the Semantan MRT station.
*Source: www.bigkl.com

C) Phileo Damansara station – located adjacent to Phileo Damansara Commercial Area.

D) Mutiara Damansara station – adjacent to the Curve Shopping Centre, IKEA and Royal Chulan Hotel.

Opening of new residential hubs

In tandem with increased mobility, the areas surrounding MRT stations have received renewed interest from developers. Quite a few have jumped on the opportunity to acquire nearby land parcels in order to build residential projects that are interconnected or within walking distance to these MRT stations. Coined as Transit-Oriented Developments (TOD), these projects are on the radar of savvy homebuyers who are looking to leverage on the daily fuss-free commute, on top of petrol and parking savings.

Below are a few such residential developments:

A) Tun Razak Exchange MRT: TRX Residences – Compromising of 6 residential towers in total, of which 2 is slated for launch in 2018.

The TRX residences is part of a mixed-use development, TRX Lifestyle Quarter; the other two components are The Exchange TRX (a premier retail lifestyle destination) and a business hotel. *Source: Lendlease Asia

B) Kg Selamat MRT : D’ Sara Sentral and SqWhere Serviced Apartments

C) Cochrane MRT: One Cochrane Residences – Set to be launched in Q1 2018

D) Surian MRT: Tropicana Gardens ( interlinked with pedestrian walkway)

E) Kajang MRT: MKH Boulevard II  – A condominium tower which is now open for registration.

F) Taman Cannought MRT: Cheria Heights Apartment (Completed in 2012)

These TODs will be the epitome of new generation property, as it brings to the table a contemporary lifestyle which crystallises the live, work and play concept. Besides enjoying a more convenient work commute, homebuyers could easily access various lifestyle destinations and attractions in the city via the MRT.

You wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance to invest in a TOD – drop by iProperty.com’s Home & Property Investment Fair from 19-21 January 2018 to learn more about properties located along transit lines. 

THE BAD

Walkability is an issue

Although the MRT stations boast good integration with other rail networks, the same cant be said for last mile connectivity. Some of the stations are lacking in terms pedestrian bridges and linkages, making it difficult and unsafe for commuters to access nearby buildings, offices or malls. For instance:

  • Cochrane MRT: There is no direct pedestrian linkway that links the MRT station to both IKEA and MyTown shopping mall, located a mere 300 metres away. Commuters have to exit the station and then cross over two busy roads just to access these two malls.
  • Taman Connaught MRT: The Cheras Sentral Mall located just opposite the station is not connected vis a pedestrian bridge. Again, commuters have to navigate across a busy road.

Commuters who exit the Taman Connaught station have to cross a highway to get to the Cheras Sentral Mall. *Source: MRT Corp

THE UGLY

Irregular feeder buses & Inefficient drivers

In an effort to aid first-mile and last mile service, feeder buses are provided to support riders’ commute from selected localities to each MRT station.  A nominal fee of RM1 is charged per entry and these buses are also disabled-friendly, as they are equipped with a platform for wheelchairs.

Unfortunately, the feeder bus service is sub-par at best and has received considerable backlash from the public.  Many have voiced their dissent on social media platforms and the recurring complaints are:

  1. Buses do not run according to the promised schedule, even during peak hours. Delays range between 30 minutes up to an hour, resulting in commuters being late for work, school or appointments.
  2. The lackadaisical attitude of bus drivers, who are not concerned over the urgency of a timely bus service. Many ignore waiting passengers or go for extended breaks.

 

Numerous commuters are disgruntled with the MRT feeder bus service. *Source: www.bigkl.com 

Here are some public excerpts posted on MRTMalaysia’s FB page (official account for MRT Corp):


Conclusion

So there you have it, boys and girls. While many are happy with the growth of our public transportation system, there has been some lament over the efficiency and reliability of the MRT service. We can only hope that these issues will be rectified soon to ensure that the full potential of the Klang Valley’s rail transportation system is realised.
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