By PHOONG JIN ZHE
COMMENT: Following complaints made by residents in the City, I accompanied Tan Lee Fatt, the DAP Sabah assistant Secretary, and Yeo Yan Yin, his assistant this morning, to do a spot check on the usage, or rather under-utilisation of parking space at the KK Sentral.
We observed that there were less than 30 privately owned vehicles parked here, although KK Sentral started operations more than six months ago. The underutilised parking lots indicate a wastage of resources and time to build KK Sentral.
I believe the main reason for this underutilisation of parking lots at KK Sentral is mainly due to poor coordination by Kota Kinabalu City Hall. According to the Greater Kota Kinabalu plan, KK Sentral is supposed to provide people the convenience to park their own vehicles and ride the bus to work in the city centre.
However, there is only one bus service line provided from KK Sentral to Hospital Queen Elizabeth, for example. There are also no City Bus connections from KK Sentral to other locations. Isn’t KK Sentral supposed to act as the central point between the main terminals at Kepayan and Inanam.
Nothing has been done with the proposed Kepayan Terminal and there are no indications that construction will be carried out soon. As a result, there are no regular scheduled bus services provided at the KK Sentral for citizens to travel around.
The City is rapidly being urbanized and population grows faster than the national average. Nowadays, citizens in Kota Kinabalu have to endure traffic congestion; the entire city is increasingly becoming less liveable. However, Kota Kinabalu’s public transportation system has lagged behind for at least 20 years.
From 34% in 1996, the percentage of the population using public transport has dropped to 12% in 2008 and 3-4% in 2012. In the past two decades, people in the City used to travel by bus. However, in recent years, they lost hope in the public transportation system. Instead, they chose to have their own vehicles.
Furthermore the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system was supposed to be built within the period from 2015 to 2020 according to Greater KK plan. Although the Prime Minister had announced that RM1 billion funds will be provided for BRT construction during 2016 budget speech, he has not fulfilled the promise until today. It is not only disappointing but it might delay the process to meet the requirement of public transport in Kota Kinabalu.
According to World Bank Economic Monitor Report 2015, “early intervention” approach should be adopted by City Hall to plan and build a modernized and advanced public transportation system in Kota Kinabalu.
The introduction of modern buses must include closed-circuit television, satellite positioning system, introduction of electronic card payment system (i.e. Hong Kong’s Octopus Card and Taiwan’s EasyCard) and barrier-free facilities for the elderly and disabled communities.
Most importantly, all bus stops must provide the arrival and departure schedule to ensure punctuality. It is crucial for City Hall to reduce the bus waiting time from 30 mins to 5-7 mins. In order to provide convenience to the public, a specialized bus lane has to be provided for people to aware of the benefits in taking bus.
City Hall is urged to immediately start the construction of BRT and LRT in the City together to cope with the rapid urbanisation. KK Sentral will not only become better utilised, but will also serve its purpose to provide convenience for the local citizens and tourists to travel around Kota Kinabalu, thus promoting economic growth.n
If the BRT and Kepayan Terminal cannot be built in time, the KK Sentral will remain underutilized in the next five years.
• Phoong Jin Zhe is DAP Sabah Publicity Secretary cum Luyang Coordinator