Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hailing the Cab

So, where are we going with this? Seven years from now, the authorities promise that all taxis in Kuala Lumpur, and by extension the Klang Valley, will morph into bigger and more comfortable executive taxis.

That isn't exactly our problem, is it?

The taxis are fine as it is and quite well maintained - a far cry from the black smoke-belchers of yesteryears and dodgy air-conditioning and ever dodgier fare-meters.

The fare-meters are still a mite dodgy and the drivers - let's face it, some are are less-than-honest. And that is putting it mildly. And that is part of the problem in Malaysia's public transport industry.

We don't need solutions seven years on. We need solutions now. Integrated public transport system that is efficient, affordable, clean and to the extent possible, enviromentally sound in terms of air and noise pollution.

We don't have much of that now. We can learn.

From our neighbours in Singapore where there is the one card to rule the buses and trains. That taxis have receipt-printers and a trunked radio system with computer systems that provide booking via SMS apart from phone calls and GPS maps.

And you can pay with credit cards too.

And that they still have privately-owned taxis - numbering some 600 or even less - driven by their owners and not owned by conglomerates. But they are a dying breed - literally and figuratively - and will be phased out soon.

As for their buses and trains, they run on time.

From our neighbours in Indonesia where for years the Bluebird group have provided taxis for various segments in Jakarta - from the normal Bluebird taxis to the executive limousine Silverbird - and even provide a post-paid service via vouchers and credit cards.

And while Jakarta still have to get a city train system in place, the authorities have expanded their busway system throughout the city - dedicated bus lanes with all new buses powered by natural gas - that are air-conditioned and run on time.

How about that for innovation.

So it isn't really about the vehicles per se, it is about the service.

So, let's get with the programme.

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