Paradigm Shift for Public Transport in Kuala Lumpur (A lot more to it than that)

Bangkok Skytrain - Problem solved. Next? t

Bangkok Skytrain: Note the huge investment in public transport to solve the problem. Oops!

Public transport in Kuala Lumpur: A paradigm shift

First extracts:

“MAY 19 — The Malaysian Government has established an objective of improving public transport in urban areas around the country as a core to stimulate economic growth and relieve traffic congestion. In order to achieve the stated objectives, the government has allocated funds worth up to RM180 billion to be invested in new public transportation systems.

“For example, this commitment can be reflected on the approval of large scale public transportation projects such as the MRT Line 2, LRT 3, HSR (High Speed Rail) KL-Singapore and BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) on the Federal Highway. The shift in focus from building more roads and highways back to improving public transport will no doubt be welcome to the urban population.

“However, despite these colossal public transportation investments, have we gone far enough to ensure public transport usage in Kuala Lumpur is a feasible alternative option to car use? I believe that there are several elements that can be addressed to further improve the attractiveness and effectiveness of the Greater Kuala Lumpur Public Transport Master Plan.”

– For more on Mr. Teoh’s article:


Editor’s commentary

The author of this piece, a graduate student working for an MSc in Transport Engineering at Imperial College London, does not look beyond . . . engineering projects and infrastructure construction, albeit in support of public transport. A common trap.

This is useful in its way as a reminder, but utterly fails to get at the key strategic point and challenges which underlay what we call the “wicked problem” of sustainable transport in cities, namely the wild card role of the private car. To get to a viable sustainable transport system and a sustainable city, you simply must be prepared to tackle the challenge of getting large, strategic cuts in private car use both going into and then in moving around in the denser built up areas.

There is no alternative. Anything other than this is a delaying operation and will not work.

And while these dramatic reductions are both possible and absolutely necessary – and after decades of work and full scale demonstrations they tend to pose enormous problems for politicians (and many engineers) who fail to understand that the only way out is the hard way, i.e., finding the path to limiting private car traffic, hopefully without getting chased out of office. And fear is a strong driver indeed.

The basic strategy is straight-forward, well known and clearly demonstrated in those cities who are on the right path. There are basically three pillars of the new policy:

  1. Significant near term reductions in private car traffic
  2. Major near term improvements in the full range of other softer and more efficient ways of getting to and around in our cities
  3. The move over time to denser and more satisfying land use and living alternatives.

There is no other way.

Nobody ever said that it was going to be easy.

# # #

About the author:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at and @ericbritton

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