KLites denied a cheap commuting option


KLites denied a cheap commuting option
By Zan Azlee

It would be a very good idea if the people who are in charge of administering the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur be those who are also in tune with the city and understand the people who live and work there.

The ban on the motorcycle ride share app Dego Ride by the Transport Ministry on Wednesday shows that they do not have a grasp of who KLites are and what their cost of living is in these trying times.

The number of motorcycles in the capital city is big. According to statistics released by the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL) and is available on their website, motorcycles account for 23 percent of all road users in the city.

It is estimated that the ratio for private ownership is 985.7 vehicles per 1,000 population, and considering that the population of Kuala Lumpur increases during the day to around 7 million people, that would mean a lot of motorcycles!

The fact of the matter is that the cost of transportation for people living and working in the city is high. Cars are substantially more expensive to purchase and once you have a car, there is the road tax, insurance and, of course, petrol and toll charges to consider.

Even the cost of public transportation within the city is high. The cost to take trains like the MRT, LRT and Komuter can add up in a month to an arm and a leg. Let’s not even talk about taxis, Uber and Grab.

So when Dego Ride started its operations in November last year, its low cost was definitely appealing to many KLites. It provided an affordable option for those who wanted, or needed, to use public transportation.

With the significant number of blue-collared workers who either live in or commute on a daily basis to the capital city, the cheap ride share app provides them a convenient and affordable service.

The Transport Ministry did justify their ban by saying that developed countries around the world like Singapore, London and Tokyo do not allow motorcycles taxis to operate. Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi says that Malaysia needs to emulate that.

I would agree to making developed countries and cities a benchmark for us to aspire to. However, we need to also pay attention to the infrastructure that is available and whether it is accessible to those living in our cities.

If the Transport Ministry ensures that there is a cheaper option, then okay. The London underground Tube system is affordable for its population. So is the MRT train system in Singapore.

If there is no cheaper option, then be ready to accept that supply would create demand. Other big cities in our region have motorcycle taxis, like Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila and they have no problems with them.

The Transport Ministry also claim that the service offered by Dego Ride is dangerous and cite the high number of motorcycle accidents in Malaysia as justification that it could lead to more accidents.

Again, the argument would be – is there a safer and affordable option? The other safe options like the trains and cars are expensive and costly. The fact that motorcycles are popular private vehicles in itself also shows that it is the cheaper option.

It really boils down to the fact that if we do want to become a more developed city, there are much more important and significant things that we can emulate rather than banning a motorcycle ride share app.

We could move towards developing and providing a better road system that would ensure a safer experience for pedestrian, cyclists and motorcyclists. We could also provide more public and open spaces for KLites to enjoy.

Or even better yet, the country could put in place a much better economic and financial plan to ensure that the country move towards being a high-income nation and hence, everyone can afford better transportation, whether private or public.

I think that the government needs to listen to the private sector because they are the ones who are good at looking at supply and demand. If there is a problem, they will come up with a solution for it. In this case, they see a need for cheaper public transportation.

Uber is a good example. People were getting sick and tired of the expensive and bad service provided by taxis in the country that when Uber started offering its service, those who stopped using taxis and migrated to Uber caused a strong disruption.

So, don’t be too quick in banning Dego Ride. Stop for a second and see why such a service was thought up and offered to the public in the first place. It is basic economics. When there is a demand, there will be a supply. When there is a problem, there needs to be a solution.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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