Lembah Pantai doesn't need extra MRT stations
Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin was reported to have stated that the MRT Line 2 would pass through Lembah Pantai.
Before the residents of the area start rejoicing, it is necessary for every one of us to step back and take a closer look at the proposal.
The area around Lembah Pantai is already home to five rail stations, namely the Universiti, Kerinchi and Abdullah Hukum stations on the Kelana Jaya Line and the Angkasapuri and Pantai Dalam stations on the Port Klang Line.
Using the standard catchment measure of 800m walking distance to rail stations, the five stations already cover most areas of Lembah Pantai between Pantai Dalam and Jalan Maarof.
In the Land Public Transport Masterplan released in 2011, the southwest segment of the MRT Line 2 is proposed to run from Taman Desa to an interchange with MRT Line 1 at Pusat Bandar Damansara.
The overriding purpose of the MRT Line 2 is to facilitate transfers with all other rail lines radiating from the city centre. Achieving this aim requires avoiding inefficiency in the rail route, and stops are the biggest factor affecting rail operational speed.
Should the MRT Line 2 be built according to the minister's proposal, the extra stops and detour would unnecessarily slow down the rail operation and add extra travel time to commuters, thereby defeating the principle purpose of the circle MRT line.
In addition, preliminary proposal from Spad about the monorail extension to Taman Gembira has suggested that it may pass through Lembah Pantai.
If this is finalised, it will make the extra MRT Line 2 stations in Lembah Pantai even more redundant.
Even if the final monorail route were to be confined along Old Klang Road, Lembah Pantai residents will be better served with bridge connections to communities across the Klang River that will allow easy access to the stations and shops there.
The MRT Line 2 should concentrate on serving the Angkasapuri and Abdullah Hukum stations that will allow access to Port Klang Line, Kelana Jaya Line, Monorail Line, and KL Eco City.
If the minister feels that an area already saturated with stations is still not being well-served, the problem is not a lack of stations but of access to existing stations.
More effort should go towards addressing this aim instead.
Eliminating the barriers to these stations needs a comprehensive set of solutions.
Lembah Pantai commuters need wider and well-maintained walkways that will allow clear, continuous paths to their stations.
These paths need to be well-shaded from the beating sun with trees in the day and well-lighted with pedestrian lights in the evenings.
Taman Bukit Angkasa and Bangsar South residents can easily access the Angkasapuri station with a direct public access through the Angkasapuri complex.
The sense of safety for pedestrians needs to be increased by designing retail, commercial and social activities facing these paths.
The presence of security can be further enhanced through setting up a local security patrol and installing automated emergency help kiosks.
To deter vehicles from speeding and allow easier pedestrian crossings, unnecessarily wide road widths also need to be reduced.
Buses running along the New Pantai Expressway can be routed via Jalan Kerinchi to serve those who prefer to ride.
By taking the above steps, Lembah Pantai would not only be more accessible but also more liveable.
Each step can be introduced incrementally and adapted to changing local conditions. It will make better use of existing infrastructure and goes further towards improving urban wellbeing.
These will not be achieved through a civil engineering rerouting proposal.