Editorial| Public Goods

Comment: National Transport Policy 2019-2030

Good high-level messages but lacking in necessary specifics.

By Aziff Azuddin | 22 October 2019


People waiting for their bus in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.
  • Given our interest in Malaysian public transportation, we were very much looking forward to the government’s launch of the National Transport Policy 2019-2030. For a time, the 11th Malaysia Plan was the closest we came to a recent policy document with specific mention of public transportation.
  • Improving public transportation is essential for a host of reasons, key amongst them include reducing the cost of living and lowering our environmental impact. Having an accessible, safe and reliable public transportation system is one of the strongest signals that government and policymakers can send to say that people and the environment truly matter. According to the World Bank however, only 17% of KL commuters use public transportation, for good reason.

Read our piece on establishing standards for commuting by public transport.

  • Following the federal government’s launch of the National Transport Policy (NTP), we examined the policy document for the fine details. These are our thoughts, specifically on areas concerning public transportation.

Good Commuter-Focused Messages

  • The echoing of commuters’ priorities and needs (as opposed to, say, service providers or regulators) is extremely welcome. The NTP’s public transportation ‘thrust’ listed as action areas the following: (i) first- and last-mile connectivity; (ii) sustainable public transportation fares; (iii) accommodating non-motorised transport modes such as bicycles; and (iv) improving accessibility for pedestrians and people with disabilities. These are all the right areas to work on in order to get more people to switch to public transport.
  • The NTP even stated the aim to ‘establish real-time transport data collection for planning and public use’ – a highly commuter-centric objective which we have also strongly advocated.
  • Continuing with the commuter lens, the NTP also stated an aim to research travel behaviours and patterns towards developing more effective strategies to encourage public transportation adoption. Increasing adoption away from private vehicles is key; Malaysia’s public transportation modal share is currently only at 25% with a target of 40% by 2030.
  • In the same vein, the government expressed a commitment to evidence-driven policy-making, which includes research collaborations with government agencies, universities and industry players. The stated openness to working with stakeholders is a refreshing message.
  • Finally, the NTP states as an objective the establishment of development guidelines and requirements for public transportation planning especially in Transit-Oriented Development projects. Aligning development plans between national transport, urbanisation and housing policies is a must towards developing connected urban centres that are mobility-focused, with an eye on decreasing private vehicle usage in the long run.

Nevertheless, Light on Tangible Action

  • The policy frameworks and messaging within the NTP documents are undoubtedly positive, but they remain high-level and hard to pin down. Overall, the NTP reads more like an aspirational document of objectives, but stops short at outlining a roadmap of actions and measures that one could point to as addressing the problems.
  • The Minister of Transportation’s speech during the launch mentioned that the document is intended to be easily understood by the public so perhaps details were sacrificed for readability. While the aim is commendable, the lack of specificity does not inspire confidence as it does not allow us to consider or examine the plans underlying the policy pronouncements. A policy document that is easily understood is one that is written well, even with a certain level of details.
  • What level of details? We wished we could have seen more specific descriptions of actions or measures to be taken, along with its projected impact. For example, the policy thrust to ‘prioritise movement of vulnerable users at pedestrian areas’ could be accompanied by a description of who vulnerable users are (do they include women?), what this means in terms of ramps, pavements, guardrails, lighting etc., who is in charge as well as the estimated cost of this policy over the NTP period.
  • Another example: the document stated a commitment to ‘effecient connectivity for first and last mile services’. Would this policy action involve existing service providers, or would the regulations be changed to enable new types of service providers such as neighbourhood social enterprises? What pilot projects are in planning, and how would low-connected routes and areas be identified? These details are crucial towards addressing the first-mile last-mile issue.
  • So while the launching of a National Transport Policy document is commendable, its lack of details left a lot to be desired. Specificity allows the public to get involved, enables the government to be held accountable to its policies, as well as providing a clear direction to steer towards. We hope that the federal government would be able to release a more detailed version of the National Transport Policy 2019-2030 in the future for the benefit of the public.

Email us your views or suggestions at editorial@centre.my.