Redefining Public Transportation

Last week during the Raya holidays, I decided to go on an impromptu trip to Ipoh whilst halfway munching down McDonald’s big breakfast set. The idea was that I would follow Alex, Grace, Ivan and Mi Ghent up to Ipoh by car and take a train back to KL as I needed to pick my wife up from Pavilion in the evening. This was on the 2nd day of Raya and after a quick check online, there was an electric train service which will leave Ipoh at 3pm later that day.

The first issue came up, after calling KTM’s ETS‘s hotline number, there was no answer at all. Of course I was worried that the train services were not running but by faith I decided to follow them up to Ipoh anyway. So I parked my car at Centerpoint in front of Starbucks where I know there will be plenty of people sitting down drinking coffee, hence I guess a thief would be less likely to steal the car in front of so many people.

By the time I arrived in Ipoh, we went about checking out several places, and then decided to buy my train ticket back. Prices were reasonable, at RM35 per one way ticket, the ride would take 2 hours to reach KL Sentral. Note that the time taken was longer because it wasn’t the express train and there were several stops in between Ipoh and KL.

At the train station, I was greeted with 3 ticket counters and a small machine outside dispensing numbers. I took a number and then saw which number was being served at the moment. My heart sank, there were like a 100 more numbers to go before mine came up and at the current rate that they are going, I would probably have to wait 2 hours for my turn and probably miss the train completely!

A quick look around and check and with Ivan’s help and a very extremely nice gentleman who gave me his number which was only 20 more numbers after the current one, I learned that one of the reasons for this slow service was the system which the staff used to book and dispense tickets. Seriously, I can 100% say that it wasn’t the staff who were lazy but the system was really holding them back. Each time they keyed in the customer’s request, it would take the system a good 3-5 minutes to process the request. Multiply that with 10 customers then you manage to either serve 10 customers in more or less an hour.

Apparently queues were the theme of the day. As we left the train station and I had gotten my ticket (yay! although I waited 40 minutes in line), Ivan brought us to one of the local restaurants where there was a huge crowd waiting to be served. It was already close to 2pm and I realised that everyone there were tourists (meaning those KL fellas), and everyone was just standing about waiting to grab the next available tables.

Anyway back to the topic on public transportation. I was rather determined to try it out fully today utilizing all sorts of methods except for the bus service because I am totally out of sync with the bus service that I will probably get REALLY REALLY lost in KL.

On the train, it was rather comfortable, the seats were adequate and there was enough leg room but the beauty of trains is that I get to walk around. They even had a 17″ screen showing a movie which had no sound so all I could do was read the subtitles. When I got bored, I would take a walk to the cafeteria carriage and order a couple of snacks.

2 hours went by and my phone battery was dying thanks to Bejeweled and Facebook. I was quite restless by this point and decided to do a very “smart” thing (note the air quotes). Instead of going off at KL Sentral, and then taking a monorail to Bukit Bintang, I decided to drop off at the old KL Station (where Heritage Hotel used to be) and take a cab to Pavilion instead.

Boy was that a big mistake, you see, the old KL station now was rather dead. Maybe because it could be the 2nd day of Raya and there were absolutely NO taxi’s available. I walked to the main road, flagged down a taxi where the driver told me that it would cost me RM20 without the use of the meter to get to Pavilion. Talk about highway robbery (it was literally on the highway though!).

So I took out my phone, turned on Google Maps and started trying to path a way to Pavilion or to the nearest monorail station. This was what I found.

And you know what? That was the exact route I had to walk because there were very little pedestrian pathways and walkways. There wasn’t even a pedestrian crossing at all so I had to walk through various weird routes to reach the monorail station. By the time I reached the station, I was completely drenched in sweat and the cool aircon in the monorail trains were a great sigh of relieve.

So the cost for the trip to Pavilion was RM1.60 and of course a bit of extra time it took me to get to the stations and to walk to Pavilion as well. Oh well, I did save a bit more cash on that.

As of right now, my cost to travel from Ipoh to Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur is RM35 + Rm1.60 which brings it to a grand total of RM36.60

On the way back home to PJ, I was running a little late so we decided to take a cab from Pavilion and this is where our image gets hurt very badly. Every taxi demanded their own fare WITHOUT the use of the meter. At the end, after negotiating with 6 taxi drivers, the fare was RM50.

Now that is really called highway robbery. I don’t blame the taxi drivers, seriously. It’s because they can’t get individual taxi licenses that they have to go through taxi companies and then on top of that they have to pay for the LNG cost (liquefied natural gas) as well as the cost to rent the cars that on some days, they make a loss because they can’t cover their daily costs.

So who are the people who give out these licenses?

Why can’t taxi drivers get their own licenses?

Damn we are no where close to Singapore’s public transportation.

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