Monday, November 30, 2015


Similar to the last car I owned. Before that I drove a Volvo 121. Seems like eons ago.

The last time I sat behind the steering wheel of a car was back in 1989. I had a car then, a sky-blue Chrysler Alpine, which cost a bomb to maintain. As soon as both my daughters left for studies overseas, I sold my Chrysler. I had no further reason to own a car. My chauffeuring days were blissfully over.

For the past 26 years I have been relying mostly on public transport and the kindness of friends with cars to get around. Every now and then, I am tempted to get a car, but the mere thought of horrendous traffic jams, parking problems, road bullies, maintenance costs and most of all, the spiralling price of fuel, is enough to deter me from visiting the car dealer.

My friends (all of them drive) tell me they would be totally lost without their car. They wouldn't have a clue how to get from Segambut to Sunway, or from Kampung Attap to Kampung Pandan. They can't imagine how I could survive for so long in the city without a car.

If caught in a jam, I would rather be in an air-conditioned bus reading my book, taking a cat-nap or checking out what car drivers are doing in their vehicles from my higher vantage point. You would be surprised if I told you!

While I can understand where they are coming from, I have to admit there have been vast improvements in our public transport system since SPAD took over the management and administration. Sure, I still have plenty of grouses, but I am glad those terror days of the pink mini-buses are gone forever. They are a menace on the road, and from 1 Dec 2015, I will be just as happy to say goodbye and good riddance to those about-to-fall-apart Metro buses plying the Ampang routes. They should have been despatched to the scrapyard decades ago.

Buses today are air-conditioned, reasonably clean, comfortable and generally reliable. I'm referring to the Rapid KL buses. Senior citizens aged 60 and above travel half fare with the special warga emas card. You can apply for one at the Concession Registration Counter located at Pasar Seni Bus Hub next to the LRT station. Remember to bring along your MyKad and a photostat copy as well. Just fill in the form and pay RM5 which will be credited to your card. You can start using it right away.

Free shuttle buses take commuters and tourists to the city's landmarks as well as to major shopping malls.

Trains run on time, and with the MRT (currently under construction) adding to the existing Kelana Jaya line, Ampang line and the monorail line, inner-city connectivity is set to improve tremendously, allowing for seamless travel within the Klang Valley with just one card for all the systems. (I seldom travel on KTM, so I can't comment on that.)

Don't know how to get to your destination by bus or train? Just go to MyRapid portal to plan your journey. That's what I do when I have to go somewhere for the first time. The portal tells me which bus or train to take, and the fares.

An electronic board outside KLCC displaying bus schedules. This photo was taken in June 2015. Waiting time has since improved even further with the addition of more buses.

There are now more buses, including double-deckers, on the roads, so waiting time is much shorter. The best news is the introduction of Go-KL buses. These buses offer complimentary rides on four routes named after colours: green, purple, red and blue lines. Together they cover all the major landmarks and shopping malls in the city like KLCC, Pavilion, Pasar Seni, Sentral, Chow Kit and Kota Raya. Having taken many rides on these buses, I highly recommend them. Waiting time is only 5-10 minutes. PJ also has a fleet of green shuttle buses serving the major residential and business hubs. Free, of course.

For ladies who do not want to share their rides with men.

If you want to avoid traffic jams and save time, take the LRT. They run on schedule and there's one arriving every 3-5 minutes except at night when you may have to wait slightly longer. Connectivity between the different lines has improved immensely. Now you can change lines using the same card. I remember there was a time when I had to queue for tickets each time I changed trains. What a hassle!

My biggest gripe is reserved for our taxi service. The word itself is a misnomer. The drivers don't seem to know the meaning of 'service'. They exploit tourists, they choose their passengers, they don't use the meter and those that do don't issue receipts. The taxis are smelly, the seats dirty and some of the drivers could do with a course on grooming and manners. No wonder in a recent survey, KL has won the dubious honour of having the worst taxi drivers.

Of course there are taxi drivers who are proud of their profession, and take great pride in keeping their taxis in showroom condition. Personally, I have yet to hail a taxi that refuses to take me to my destination. I don't understand this practice of asking the driver first whether he would go to a certain destination. I just get in, and then tell the driver where I want to go.

With MyTeksi and GrabCar coming into the picture, commuters are spoilt for choice. Service provided by these new entrants is good. The taxis are clean and comfortable. Most important of all, you feel safe as the driver's particulars are recorded on your phone. I have not taken Uber taxis so I can't comment on them, but feedback from my friends has been positive.

By the time all my baby boomer friends reach an age when they can no longer drive, moving around in the city will be a breeze. Starting from 1 Dec, 2015, commuters will see even more improvements to the bus network. As you can see, it is possible to move around in the Klang Valley via public transport. I often take a mix of riding the bus, train and taxi to get to my destinations, Of course a bit of walking is involved too. But I consider that as exercise. Good for fitness and health.

An umbrella, a bottle of water and a notebook - these are items I must pack in my bag before I set out for the day's destinations. And my RapidKL card, of course. I never leave home without it. A final glance at my checklist, and I am ready to go.

So do I still want to get a car? What do you think?

(Written by Lily Fu)

Related post:

Can you do without a car?

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