Public Transportation | Construction Essay

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Public transportation is an essential service that must be provided by the government to its citizen. Yet, it still an issue faced by most of developing countries all over the world including Malaysia. As it begins to transform itself to become a developed country in 2020, it is a crucial to have comfortable, reliable and affordable world-class public transportation system to meet the target. According to Ministry of Transportation (2012), by having efficient transport network, several main transport issues faced by urban populations such as high traffic congestion during peak periods, cancellations and frequent delays of service and poor access to public transport services and network can be solved immediately.

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As part of government commitment to develop better system for public transportation, Malaysia has invested in many public transportation planning and development program over the years. For example under 9th Malaysia Plan (2006-2010), RM 31.8 billion was allocated to improve the public transportation performance. (Government of Malaysia, 2006). An additional RM 35 billion was further allocated under Budget 2009 (2009 – 2014) to enhance the public transportation services in Malaysia, for the allocation of new buses and provision of better infrastructure facilities (Bernama, 2008). However, the utilization rate of public transportation is still poor and the use of private vehicles is continuously rising. This scenario indicates that there are probably several flaws within the previous and current approach (PEMANDU, 2012). Since public transportation is very important to the social and economic life of the citizens, a new plan of massive improvement under Government Transformation (GTP) Program, the National Key Result Area (NKRA) has been launched in November 2009. There are 6 initiatives under this program and one of them is UPT-NKRA. It stands for NKRA Urban Public Transportation. The objective of UPT-NKRA may different based on the phase of its implementation. Below are several objectives that need to be achieved in 2010 and 2012.

Improving the public transport modal share from 11% to 15% by the end of 2010 and to 25% by the end of 2012 during the morning peak period of 7am to 9pm in the Klang Valley and will subsequently adapt and apply successful initiatives to Penang and Johor Bahru;

  • Improving reliability and journey times; 
  • Enhancing commuters’ comfort and convenience; and 
  • Improving accessibility and connectivity so that the percentage of the population living within 400 metres of a public transport route increases from 63% to 80% in 2012.

(Source: Ministry of Transport Malaysia 2012)

In the real world, government policies may not achieve the target and the actual needs. Most of developing countries have contributed so many efforts towards providing better public transportation. However, the implementation always faced with many difficulties. In Pakistan for instance, it was found that, factors like overstated role of the private sector, lack capacity among public transport organizations, negligence in the development of high-capacity public transport, failure to use existing land and integration difficulty had been identified as major problems led to the unsuccessful of their policies (Imran, 2009). The continuous failure to serve the demand of citizens to enjoy better public transportation service is not good for a developed country to be. In Malaysia, proper planning and significant improvement only had been seen in several main cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Klang Valley and Penang. On the other hand, Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah that is experiencing rapid population growth and tremendous economic activities still have to depend on bus to bring them into their destinations.

This research will try to analyse the impact of public transportation policy on public bus transportation in Kota Kinabalu. Government policy at federal, state and local level will be analysed together with several issue in public transportation. Besides, the feedback of various stakeholders mainly from the government and respective authoritative body, private bus-operators as well as the public users will be taken into account.


Kota Kinabalu and its Public Transportation

Kota Kinabalu is the capital city of Sabah which is populated by people from various ethnics, races and religions. It is located within the rapidly developing West Coast Division [1] . Over the years, this city is experiencing several infrastructure developments. Many shopping complexes and commercial buildings had been erected and these have encouraged more business and trade activities. Kota Kinabalu is considered as an urbanizing city due to its economy and population growth. In 2010, the total estimate number of population in Kota Kinabalu is 452, 058 (Statistics Department, 2011) with average household income RM 2487 per month (Economic Planning Unit, 2011). Apart from becoming a centre for education, business and social activities, Kota Kinabalu also have a number of attractive destinations for the local and international tourists. It was reported that, domestic and foreign visitors entered Sabah through Kota Kinabalu is 100,000 in 2004 and increased to 600, 000 in 2010 (Sabah Tourism Board).

To date, bus (includes express bus, minibuses and vans) still served as the main mode of public transportation to the local residents of Kota Kinabalu. The public bus system is operated by various private companies featured with variable quality. They provide travelling network and service in the urban, sub-urban and intercity areas. The main terminal is located in front of Wawasan Plaza Building where the urban and suburban buses pick and drop their passenger all over again. Another terminal is located in Inanam provides intercity buses service towards long distance travels such as Kudat, Ranau, Sandakan, Tawau, Lahad Datu and Semporna. Taxicabs also still operate in this city but the service focus at the several main areas only such as at the airport, hospitals and terminal bus. Besides, a railway system known as Sabah State Railway also operated in this city. However, the destination coverage is limit to several areas where it connects Kota Kinabalu with Tenom and several other towns in between this railway it provides daily services for commuters, travelers, as well as for cargo transportation.

Players in Public Transportation: Government Entity

Government entity is the important stakeholders in public transportation. Any policy formulated by the government will affect the whole public transportation system in our country. Based on the interpretation provided by Land Public Transport Act 2010, government entity defined as the federal government, or any state government, state authority or local government; and any ministry, department, office, agency, authority, commission, committee, board, council or other body, corporate or unincorporate, of the Federal Government, or of any State Government or local government, whether established under written law or otherwise. In Malaysia, federal government is most responsible party to ensure the better performance of public transportation throughout the country. Only this level of government able has the power to approve and grant funding to any plan and project suggested by the subordinate’s governments. This is clearly mentioned in the Laws of Malaysia (1997) where the responsibility for financial allocation to regional authorities or local authorities lies with the central government (Vigar et al, 2000). Not only responsible in allocate money to be distributed to the subordinates government but also federal have the power to approve or disapprove any project and program proposed by the lower governments. As transport matters are a federal listed responsibility under the Constitution of Malaysia., the improvement of the public transport system can only be carried out with central government’s approval since the Transport Ministry holds absolute power over transport planning (Laws of Malaysia, 1997). There are several department and unit under the federal administration works for public transportation namely Land Public Transport Commission, Road Transport Department Commercial Licensing Vehicle Board in Sabah and Sarawak and many more.

Land Public Transport Commission (LPTC)

Land Public Transport Commission is established on 3 June 2010 after the formulation of Land Public Transport Commission Act 2010 by Parliament in May 2010. This commission gained its full powers under the Land Public Transport Act 2010 and coming into force on 31 January 2011. By the establishment of this commission, the functions of Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board, Department of Railways and the tourism vehicles licensing function of the Ministry of Tourism in Peninsular Malaysia have been made inapplicable. However, LPTC only have jurisdiction power over peninsular Malaysia. The commercial Vehicles Licensing Board, Department of Railways and the Ministry of Tourism still continue to exercise their respective powers in Sabah and Sarawak. The table shown below summarize the power description of LPTC.




Master plan to ensure comprehensive, integrated and sustainable infrastructure development.

SPAD shall propose policies and plans in relation to or affecting land public transport, and develop strategies in line with the approved policies and plans with a view to achieving a safe, reliable, efficient, responsive, accessible, planned, integrated and sustainable land public transport, while ensuring the provision of affordable services for the carriage of passengers and competitive services for the carriage of goods.(The Land Public Transport Act 2010)


Monitoring and regulate standard of performance of operators through licensing.

Regulating all matters pertaining land vehicles such as train, bus and taxi services as well as road and rail-based freight transport


Enhanced powers encompassing powers to audit, investigate, suspend/revoke license, seize vehicles, and penalise operators.

Carry out with close cooperation with other enforcement agencies such as the Royal Malaysian Police and the Road Transport Department.

Source: Land Public Transportation Commission Official Website, 2012

Road Transport Department

This department is established on 1 April 1946 with the purpose to synchronize all aspects related to transportation all over the states. In line with the establishment of this department, various acts relating to land transportation had been formulated for example Road Traffic Ordinance 1958 and Land Transportation Act 1987. Both aim to uniform and standardize the national transportation law as well as to provide guideline to the department officers in exercising their duties. This department is under the Land Unit of Ministry of Transportation in Malaysia. It is responsible to provide counter service for vehicle and driving licensing as well as to enforce Land Transportation Act 1987 to ensure well behaved drivers and safety of the roads users.

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Commercial Licensing Vehicle Board Sabah (CLVB)

Commercial Licensing Vehicle Board in Sabah is established under Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board Act 1987. As stated in the act, the member of the board in Sabah must be appointed by the Minister and shall consist the a chairman, a deputy chairman, a representative of the State Ministry charged with the responsibility for transport, a representative of the Road Transport Department, a representative of the Federal Ministry charged with the responsibility for matters relating to the licensing of commercial vehicles and not more than six persons who in the opinion of the Minister have had wide experience or special knowledge in matters relating to transport. CVLB is set up to assist the development of commercial transport industry by establishing policies to ensure a sufficient and efficient commercial transport service (

Local Government

The position of local government in Malaysia is stated in Federal Constitution. By virtue of items 4 and 5 of Ninth Schedule of Federal Constitution, local government outside the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya is a subject under the State List. All local authorities outside the Federal Territories will be under the exclusive jurisdiction of States Government. There are 146 local councils in Malaysia made up of city councils, municipal councils, district councils, and special authorities and Kota Kinabalu City Hall is among of them. KKCH is only responsible to provide bus terminals, provide road lighting in their territory

Problem Statement

Since the last three decades, government at the federal and state as well as at the local level had created various policies and plans to improve public transportation especially in urban areas. To date, significant improvement on public transportation had only been seen in several main cities such as Kuala Lumpur. The difference of this city from the others is that, apart from having various mode of modern transportation such as Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Monorail System, Kuala Lumpur also have an integrated public bus system namely RapidKL which is characterized with attractive appearance, safety, standardization and reliable schedule of journeys. Kota Kinabalu, one of the developing cities in Malaysia relies predominantly on buses for public transport since the past until present time and it will likely to continue to be so for years. However, it is still not well-developed and people still perceived it as inadequate, less comfortable, less physically-attractive, non-punctual and unsafe. The only noticeable changes is the introduction of city bus service in 2009 which is still not give big implication to the performance of public bus transportation.

As an effort to make continuous improvement on public transportation, UPT-NKRA is then launched in 2009. After almost 3 years of its implementation, certain cities begin to show the improvement on their public transportation services. Based on the GTP Annual Report 2011, 470 RapidKL buses were introduced, which increased the frequency of buses across the Klang Valley. As of 31 December 2011, up to 4.04 million more passengers used the RapidKL bus service in comparison to the preceding year. According to the prime minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak, results of the NKRA of improving urban public transport have been promising as more people are taking the bus as their mode of transport (Bernama, May 18, 2012).

Recently, the coordinator of the working group on public transportation in Malaysia, Mr. A. Sivarajan urged the government to re-evaluate national public transport policy in order to provide a more effective and efficient system to consumers (Bernama, October 25, 2012). According to the working group, several main problem as the concentration of bus service within Kuala Lumpur, the unsafe locations of bus stops, the non-passing of bus at certain bus stops area and poor network connectivity had been identified.

The above-mentioned scenario convinced the researcher of the need to analyse the government public transportation policy. Based on the assumption that the public transportation policy is vague and implicit to the other states and cities, there is a need to critically assess the policy in the context of public bus transportation in Kota Kinabalu. In trying to critically analyse the policy, it is equally important to explore the issues in public transportation and to examine the feedback of the various stakeholders regarding government effort to improve public transportation though its policy implementation.

Research Objectives

  • To analyse the public transportation policy regarding the public busin Kota Kinabalu
  • To scrutinize the public transportation policy at federal, state and local level
  • To examine the feedback of main stakeholders regarding government policy and public bus improvement in Kota Kinabalu
  • To explore the issues associate with public transportation
  • To recommend solutions for policy improvement purpose

Research Questions

In respond to the listed objectives, several questions had been formulated and will be answered through the research. The questions that take into account are:

  • What are the government policies regarding public transportation in Kota Kinabalu?
  • What is the position of bus in public transportation policy?
  • How public bus transportation in Kota Kinabalu develops from the policy implementation?
  • What is the stakeholder’s feedback towards the implementation of public transportation policy in Kota Kinabalu?
  • How the issues affect the implementation of public transportation policy in Kota Kinabalu?

Scope of Study

This study will be conducted in Kota Kinabalu. The focus is to analyse how the government policy affects public bus transportation in Kota Kinabalu. For the purpose of policy analysis, it will cover the period since 1990 to present. The respondents of this study will be the representative from government and other authoritative bodies such Kota Kinabalu City Hall (KKCH), Road Transport Departments, Commercial Licensing Vehicle Board (CLVB), and private bus-operators as well as public bus users. This study would be conducted from February 2012 to June 2013.

Limitation of Study

The first obstacle that will be confronted by the researcher is limited accessibility to the desired data. Since this research employed historical method, the access to some existed data may not be granted. For example, government documents such as budget and policy plan that is perceived consist of confidential information will not be easily given. Besides, some of required data may not be available due to poor record system such as ineffective newspaper cutting service. The absence of these sources creates difficulty in tracing the chronology and meaningful trend of the public transportation policy and progress in Kota Kinabalu. Therefore, in order to get sufficient information, the data findings will not focus to one single area only. Several places need to be visited and more key actors need to be interviewed.

The second obstacle is the availability of the key person (respondent). In qualitative research that used interview method to collect the data, difficulty will arises when the respondents cancel the interview appointment due to other commitments. Some of the respondents especially those at the top level management usually busy and often going outstations. This situation will possibly caused the problem to collect and analyse the data within the time framework. Therefore, the researcher must always follow up with the respective respondents and plan the interview schedule in organized manner together with the backup plan.

Significance of Study

The finding of this research is important for future planning purpose. It acts as a feedback to the current public transportation policy. The policy makers will be able to decide whether to change or to maintain the status quo of the policy based on the information provided.

Besides, it also will contribute to the body knowledge of public transportation literature especially in the context of Sabah. It was found that here were few studies done to analyse the public transportation policy and none of them found to discuss the topic in regards with the public bus transportation. Thus, it creates difficulty to the researchers to find convincing and strong statement to support the findings. At the same time, it will serve as a source of reference to the future researchers who seek information regarding this topic.

The findings also will offer valuable information to public users as they will get cleared pictures and more understanding about the policy progress and how to improve the public bus transportation in Kota Kinabalu.

Definition of Terms and Concepts


According to Dye (1984), public policy is defined as “whatever government choose to do or not do”. Dye definition is too broad to be really meaningful but by defining policy in such a way, it is possible to determine the actual or working policy of a government based on what government do or not do (Gunggut, 2006),

As for him , it is not enough to look at the written documents such as laws and cabinet decisions but what is actually being done or not being done by the government. In this paper, policy refers to any action and effort the government want to do and not to do including any program, plan and project that being formulated to serve the public interest.

Policy Analysis

Dye (2000: 4) defined policy analysis as the description and explanation of the causes and consequences of government activities. For him, an analysis of a public policy should be exhibit a primary concern with explanation rather than prescription which is means the policy analyst should attempt to develop or test general propositions about the causes and consequences of public policy and to accumulate reliable search findings of general relevance.

Public Transportation

Public transportation is defined as transportation by a conveyance that provides continuing general or special transportation to the public (Tran & Kleiner, 2005). It excludes school buses, charter and sightseeing service and includes various modes such as buses, subways, rail, trolleys and ferry boats (Ibid)


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