Like many major cities in Southeast Asia, traffic in Kuala Lumpur is pretty bad. The distance between my home and the office is about 20 kilometres, and I spend about an hour getting to work, and 1.5 hours to get home. This will stretch to two hours when it rains, or if it’s a Friday evening.
Traffic congestion has been a long standing problem in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley. We are a nation of drivers – almost every household in urban areas has at least one car. Malaysians reportedly have one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world. It’s not because we like cars (who wants to be tied down with loans and whatnot, especially since our cars aren’t that cheap either) – but it’s a necessity. Getting from place to place is simply too inconvenient if you don’t have one.
The way I see it, the major issue is connectivity. For example, the area I live in has no buses servicing the route, and the nearest train station is 25 minutes (on foot), with no pavements to walk on (you’ll have to walk on the road where you’re at risk of being run over by a truck or some shit). This is true for many housing estates, so the only way one is able to travel conveniently is to get a car (or a motorbike). Even when using public transportation, it is often unreliable. I used to travel from my home to my college (about 40 kilometres away), which would involve me getting up at 5.30AM (my dad would drop me off at the train station on his way to work), catching the train at 6.30AM, and arriving at school at 8AM. When I had to go home, I’d take the train and switch to a bus (the journey would take up to 3 hours) and I still couldn’t get right to my doorstep because it would be a 30 minute walk on unpaved roads again – I had to wait for my dad to come pick me up.
These days, there is Grab – but the government has been regulating the system and as a result, many people have quit being Grab drivers, and the supply is limited. Longer waiting times aside, there has also been a surge in price. There have been calls from certain parties to promote carpooling by banning single drivers (which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard), but until the day they can have better urban planning (don’t build housing estates THEN think about transportation; sane people do it the other way around) and better connectivity, I doubt there will be a solution to our transportation woes.
Then again, I just need to take a trip to Manila to remind myself that we have it much better than they do. Visiting N there has been a nightmare the last couple of times; like the time we got stuck in a flood which took us 5 hours to get from the Museum of Natural History back to our hotel near the airport: a distance of 12 kilometres. Also, breathing in diesel fumes from jeepneys, being squished like a sardine in the vehicle, sweating from pores I didn’t even know existed, and such. Yep. Gimme KL traffic any day.