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People-centric Mobility Is Key to Liveability in Cities

 Taking a people-centred approach when planning public transportation systems is crucial to ensure the liveability and sustainable development of cities, according to the panel of experts at the Iskandar Rapid Transit International Webinar Series #1. 

Themed “Game Changer for Public Transportation”, the virtual webinar was organised by the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) with the aim of increasing awareness of the Iskandar Rapid Transit, the upcoming Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system to be built in and around Iskandar Malaysia in Johor. 

The Iskandar Rapid Transit will increase the mobility of Johoreans by connecting to the main transportation hubs in Iskandar Malaysia, Senai Airport, Rapid Transit System (RTS), Double Tracking Rail (EDT Gemas – JB), Larkin Sentral and Puteri Harbour. The first phase of the Iskandar Rapid Transit is expected to be ready for operations by 2024. 

Rudyanto Azhar, Director of Iskandar Rapid Transit, said, “Getting the public to notice and be receptive towards the public transportation service that we are introducing is quite tough. People are so used to driving their own vehicles especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, for health and wellbeing reasons.” 

The Iskandar Rapid Transit is part of Iskandar Malaysia’s urbanisation journey towards 2025. It aims to provide communities with an enhanced travel option that is convenient, reliable, safe, and frequent, thus offering them opportunities for increased productivity and a better quality of life. 

More importantly, the Iskandar Rapid Transit uses technologies and innovation that change the way consumers travel, leading to carbon reductions and minimises the overall impact on the environment. 

“We at Iskandar Rapid Transit have an extensive list of areas and people to engage with. This is an initiative that we have been carrying out from the very beginning even during the planning stage of the BRT system. As we enter the construction stage, we need to bring people into the fold, by providing them with updates on the works that we are doing,” Rudyanto added. 

Construction works for the Iskandar Rapid Transit is slated to begin in mid-2022. In the meantime, perception surveys are planned accordingly to gauge the public’s awareness of the new public transportation system. 

Results of the study conducted in April 2021 showed that awareness of the Iskandar Rapid Transit was relatively high at 84%, of which 93% were public transport users. 

Rudyanto said while there is interest in the Iskandar Rapid Transit, the time is ripe for driving acceptance and buy-in from the public ahead of the commencement of the service, considering the social, economic and environmental impacts it provides, particularly for Johoreans. 

Echoing his sentiment was Professor Dr. Wan Mazlina Wan Mohamed, Head of Training & Continual Professional Development of the Malaysian Institute of Transport (MITRANS) at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). 

“There is a saying that to measure the success of a country, we need to look at how much value people get when utilising public transport. However, we need to change mindsets on public transport and work towards making it an attractive option in our cities,” she said. 

MITRANS was responsible for conducting the technical feasibility study of the Automated Rapid Transit (ART) system — one of the test vehicles for the Bus Pilot Testing Programme carried out for the Iskandar Rapid Transit which concluded on 31 August last year. 

The Bus Pilot Testing programme involved the demonstration and testing of the latest green bus technologies including electric and biodiesel. 

Dr. Wan Mazlina also explained that the measure of success of an urban public transportation system lies in innovation and convenience. 

“People like new technologies. ART, for example, is new and features the latest automotive innovations. By having new technologies in public transport vehicles, we will be able to attract and entice people to patronise it more. This way, we will also be able to attain higher ridership on our public transportation systems.” 

The Iskandar Rapid Transit project will consider the best available technologies to be reliable, economically, and environmentally efficient, as well as adheres to internationally accepted safeguards and standards. 

For example, cutting-edge technologies will be adapted for mobile ticketing, automated fare collection and passenger information. Similarly, advanced green technology will be deployed in the vehicle and fuel aspects, which in turn supports Iskandar Malaysia’s Smart City agenda. 

Dr. Matt Benson, Programme Director of Think City, remarked that any public transportation system – when executed well and strategically – will not only improve the liveability in cities but pave the way for greater investments in the long run. 

“Public transportation is not only critical for the liveability and physical connectivity within the cities, but it is also a key element in freeing road space and reducing congestion, as well as in attracting businesses and investments to cities,” said Benson. 

Think City is a special-purpose subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Malaysia’s strategic investment arm, which was established for the purpose of working on urban rejuvenation and creating more people-friendly cities. 

Still, according to Benson, customer experience remains vital to the public transport industry and that providing excellent customer service is a fundamental aspect of any successful public transportation system. 

“The customer experience needs to be seamless. Everything from navigation to access from stations, accessibility for people with disabilities and maintenance are all necessary and important. End users these days are also evolving, more tech-savvy and are looking to make the most out of technology,” said Benson. 

Meanwhile, in his keynote speech entitled “Iskandar Malaysia: Preferred Destination to Invest, Work, Live and Play – 15 Years On”, Datuk Ismail Ibrahim, former Chief Executive of IRDA, said the growing population of Iskandar Malaysia along with the rising cost of living have made a good case for a more reliable mode of transportation that can be used by the public. 

Iskandar Malaysia’s population currently stands at approximately 2.35 million, of which 844,000 people are projected to benefit from using the BRT. The BRT is also expected to pave the way for the creation of up to 35,000 new job opportunities and 30% to 35% in savings for people when using public transport. 

“With the population of more than two million in Iskandar Malaysia and the strain from the rising cost of living, we cannot continue to rely on the existing public transportation. Hence, we need to introduce an effective, efficient, comfortable, safe, and affordable mode of public transportation such as the BRT, if our goal is to ensure that living costs can be kept within an affordable range,” he said. 

Once fully implemented, the Iskandar Rapid Transit would be able to connect 55 feeder routes and 44 direct routes with the main route covering 28 stations. 

The Game Changer for Public Transportation webinar was one of a series of webinars scheduled to be held ahead of the rollout of the Iskandar Rapid Transit. Up next is a webinar on Investors, Innovation and People planned for this year. 

For more information or the latest updates on the Iskandar Rapid Transit project, visit Iskandar Rapid Transit’s official social media channels: 

  • • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iskandarrapidtransit 
  • • Twitter: https://twitter.com/imbrtofficial?lang=en 
  • • Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iskandarrapidtransit/ 
  • • LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/iskandarrapidtransit/