Photo: Malay Mail Online

Political parties should not make proposals without first making a thorough study to ensure the right groups benefit, says Awang Azman Awang Pawi

KUALA LUMPUR: Having an unlimited travel pass for public transport will ease traffic congestion and help commuters but further studies are needed to ensure the right target groups benefit from such a plan, according to an analyst.

Awang Azman Awang Pawi said although the proposal on unlimited travel pass looks good, there are pros and cons to be considered to ensure its long-term effectiveness.

“It shouldn’t be just to pull in votes because the election is nearing.

“Ideally, leading up towards the 14th general election (GE14), both the government and opposition coalition need not play on rhetorical policies; rather they should stress on proposing policies that could actually lessen the average Malaysians’ living cost burden,” he told Berita Daily.

Awang Azman, an academic at Universiti Malaya, said though Malaysia’s debt was at RM685 billion as at June 2017, there are other methods for the nation’s administration to gain and generate revenues for the country.

“When we look at it on one side, the public transportation plan proposed can actually gain long-term revenue for the government later moving ahead.

“But of course, such measures should always be dealt in a holistic manner working with appropriate government-linked companies (GLCs) and private corporations to initiate and build the mechanism at hand,” he said.

He said there was no doubt the proposed unlimited travel pass is a much-needed necessity for Malaysians.

“The unlimited travel pass plan is needed largely as one of the ways to mitigate problems of heavy traffic in city centres and more importantly, to lessen the living cost problems that we’re having now,” added Awang Azman.

Recently Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming said a monthly RM100 unlimited travel pass card to boost usage of public transport will be introduced if Pakatan Harapan forms the next federal government.

His proposal was based on the fact that there was a sharp rise in the peak daily ridership of Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT line in August last year. Similar hikes were also noted in the ridership of the Kelana Jaya and Ampang LRT lines during the same period.

Ong attributed the increase in ridership to the 50 percent discount given in conjunction with the Merdeka celebration.

But once the fare discount period was over, the daily ridership dropped to 103,345, which is significantly less than the target of 150,000, he said.

“This is why it is necessary to introduce an affordable monthly public transportation pass to allow passengers to have unlimited rides on the LRT, MRT, Monorail and Rapid KL buses as a way to increase public transportation usage,” said the DAP MP.

Question of practicality

Meanwhile, the Public Transport Users Association (4PAM) questioned the practicality of having a single price for public transport.

4PAM president Ajit Johl said this could be seen from the usage of public transportation, which varies according to market segments and time used by commuters.

“It is clearly a policy idea that is done without talking to current operators.

“4PAM fears that such a policy will backfire as it will not benefit those in the low-income bracket but it will benefit those people who can afford,” he told Berita Daily.

Ajit said on a flat rate, the person with a lower income would fork out a higher percentage of his salary for public transport compared to the person with a higher income.

“The policy has already been put in place by the current operators; Prasarana already has various options to cater for the different target markets. It is already good enough,” he said.

Ajit further questioned the sustainability of the policy moving forward if it was implemented.

“What’s going to happen when there is a sudden influx of say 40 percent from the current 100 percent capacity usage?

“You have to build the infrastructure according to the growth of the usage. Public transportation is an expensive infrastructure. You have the growth and the pricing would have to balance the cost. And it’s the government’s responsibility. Because no public transport in the world makes money,” he said.

Similarly, back in June 2008, the Selangor state government introduced free water for the first 20 cubic metres of water for individual consumers.

Reports have shown that the Selangor government spends a staggering RM14 million a month on its free water programme yet the deserving 30 percent who are poor do not benefit.

Poor families living in low-cost flats use bulk meters instead of individual ones hence they still pay more than other domestic users.

While the initiative seems noble, many believe that free water should only be given to the hardcore poor.

Also read:

RM100 unlimited travel card if Pakatan wins GE14