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    Why Can’t We Make Public Transportation In Malaysia, Free—Like Luxembourg

    If Luxembourg can do it, I sincerely think Malaysia can too.

    Image | Wikimedia Commons

    It’s just that we need to be a little more creative than Luxembourg, that’s all. There are too many things I foresee hindering this noble. One of them is the less-visionary people who are leading the relevant authorities and agencies. They are earning five figures each yet the effort to make things better is absolutely below expectations when it comes to innovation and creativity.

    On the surface, Malaysia is seen to be having decent public transportation quality. But to me personally, this country still has a long way to go in terms of public transportation. Despite the government’s efforts to improve the current situation, traffic congestion is still terrible, and people rely heavily on private vehicles. This is probably a sign telling us that the solution is actually half-cooked. There are public bus services that operate across the nation, be it in big cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru, Kuantan, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, and remote towns, but the traffic congestion is still pretty bad. Many leaders who are involved in the decision-making are not aware of what’s happening on the field. To cut the story short, the government has not been innovative enough and put a better effort to solve the traffic.

    We all can see from the images of the crowds at the train stations and bus stations each time there are problems. The finger-pointing game usually started when any of the train services went down.

    The benefits of making public transportation free in Malaysia

    Making public transportation accessible at no charge in Malaysia is the best way to reduce the number of private vehicles on the road. Yes, this is just my personal theory and it is not proven. Perhaps the authorities should consider giving this idea a shot and see how people flock in to join the ride. I remember there was once the LRT rides were offered free for a limited period of time and people loved it. Not just loved it, they were really using the LRTs back and forth. And I was among those lucky ones.

    This tells one thing. Malaysians love free things. Why? Because on average we are all in survival mode here in this country. While according to some expatriates and foreign visitors, almost everything in this country is cheap or reasonably priced, the locals on the other hand are having a different perspective altogether. To us, every single thing is so expensive for the locals to buy—especially food, healthcare and transportation.

    Sometimes I wonder, where does all the taxes money go to? Personally, I do not see much of those taxes money being utilised back to benefit the locals.

    If the bulk of the public transportation costs can be completely waived, we the locals can spend our hard-earned income on something else that is more important. This will benefit Malaysians in a huge way. It will be a great way to incentivise people to move around the country using trains, trams, buses and taxis instead of buying cars or bikes. This can ultimately save them thousands of Ringgit every month in the long run. When this happens, it will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles on the road too.

    And the obvious benefit among all will go to the government. They’ll secure more votes in the next elections for sure.

    How to financially support a free public transportation system in Malaysia

    Running efficient public transportation services needs to be financially supported in order to keep its operations smooth. So, how to go about it when the core service is being given for free? I may have tons of ideas on how to do it, but I won’t be sharing them all with you here. This is a serious matter and I’m not paid to provide answers to this challenge.

    I am no expert in this subject. I happened to be a public transport user and commute daily using LRTs, MRTs and buses. And I know, providing free public transportation is not easy, as it requires a lot of financial resources.

    What I can do here perhaps is to offer one solution instead of many. While the ride must be free, the non-core or additional services can be charged accordingly. This can include anything from wi-fi access on board the vehicles to advertising space in and on the vehicles as well as the stations. Try doing it internally and do not involve too many parties when doing this as the net profit will be affected by the profit-sharing. All we need is to be a little creative with these chargeable services, that is all. This might not cover all the costs, but I can safely say that the revenue might cover some of it easily.

    There are a few more ideas that might significantly complement it, but again I’m not going to share them openly here for free. The five-figure earner people up there at the relevant GLCs might need to step up the game a little and offer their ideas to make it happen. And I hope they won’t just go ahead and hire any consultants to do it for them. It’s not that difficult to do this internally, and I mean it.

    How to start

    It starts by being creative.

    An in-depth understanding of the users’ behaviour and their journey is key. Profile them accordingly and we will obviously see patterns. Then work on the routes, capacity and network of vehicles involved and make sense of them. After that understand the growth of each element and how to plan to accommodate future growth. Once done, understand the operations that will connect all dots. And finally, understand the ecosystem that will support the entire service too—and one of them is the monetisation part.


    The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that a nation of happy people is the key to prosperity. To achieve this, it is important for the government and the involved GLCs to focus on improving people’s lives and making them better. This can be done through providing access to not just quality future-proof education, job opportunities, reasonable wages rate at par with global standards and ensuring basic human rights for the people, but also quality transportation services that can allow them to move from one place to another without thinking about costs. A strategic investment in this will ultimately lead to a more prosperous nation.

    Think positive. If Luxembourg can do it for its people, I’m sure Malaysia can do it too.

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