(Un)Popular Opinion | It’s a bright, sunny morning. You rub your sleepy eyes awake and quickly jump off the bed. After a hot shower, you get dressed in your uniform/work attire before heading towards the dining area where a hearty breakfast awaits you.
Your hunger now satiated, you then walk towards your car or if you don’t drive, take the bus or train to work. Along the way, you admire the beautiful scenery and the glorious sun rising from its golden slumber.
Public transport in the country has been a hot topic in recent weeks following controversies such as the notorious Sri Rampai LRT escalator which was left unfixed for five years and numerous complaints of long lines and broken facilities on social media, like this tweet from a netizen who had enough of the madness.
Seemingly jolted into action by the backlash, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri announced on June 16 that Malaysians will now enjoy free MRT, LRT, Bus Rapid Transit, monorail as well as RapidKL bus rides for a month — a move seen by political analysts as a populist move to placate public anger as the possibility of GE15 looms in the corner.
As sweet as the deal may seem to those who take public transport everyday, the free ride initiative failed to address the problems that were left to fester for years and have unfortunately given the perception that Malaysia is a Third-World country.
During the unveiling of the 12th Malaysian Plan (RMK-12) last September, it was reported that less that 40% of Malaysians take public transport. In a bid to increase ridership, the government introduced two strategies to address the problem — improve accessibility of public transport and encourage behavioural shift from private to public transport.
With less than three months until the 1st anniversary of RMK-12, Malaysia’s public transport woes have not only not improved, but have instead steadily gone worse.
There has been numerous instances of netizens railing against the poor management of public transport facilities and urging the government to take proactive steps to address it, but it has all come to the same conclusion — authorities are much more comfortable in closing their eyes towards these issues or blaming other parties for their incompetence.
Perhaps the most glaring example of this was Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) Chief Executive Officer Mohd. Rani Hisham Samsudin, who said that the cause of massive congestion was thanks to Malaysians who were reluctant to take public transport.
His logic is not only flawed, but irresponsible as well. Why on earth would anyone want to utilise a service that has been left to decay for so long and doesn’t ease their travel burdens at all? And we’re talking about machines that can leave people injured or in extreme cases, death if not maintained on a regular basis.
And if authorities are so confident in the efficiency of the public transportation system, why is it that we have yet to see a single minister riding the KTM or bus alongside Malaysians, except for Muar MP Syed Saddiq?
All in all, giving out free rides to Malaysians for a month is obviously not going to fix the problems our public transportation system has been enduring unless there’s a strong political will. But the question is, will the government be brave enough to face it head on or continue to cover up their incompetence with such short-sighted “goodies”?
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I personally feel that Taylor Swift really summed up my thoughts about the attitude of authorities in “improving” the public transportation system in her 2014 hit Bad Blood:
Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes
You say sorry just for show
If you live like that, you live with ghosts
And if they don’t wake up soon, Malaysians may soon be haunted by the ghost of being left further behind and mocked as a backward country.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not purport to reflect the opinions or views of WeirdKaya.
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Cover image via The Star and Twitter/skinnyondinie