I fully agree with the call from tertiary students that they be granted concession fares for the Rapid Penang bus service. It was not that long ago that I was a tertiary student, and I benefitted from access to public transportation.
I believe that all tertiary students should have discounts to encourage them to use public transportation. There will be many social advantages if tertiary students are encouraged to use public transit instead of being pushed into purchasing cars.
First, Malaysian roads are already choked with cars. Air pollution reaches alarming levels on a regular basis, especially in the cities. It is vital that we look at as many options as possible to reduce the number of cars that are on our roads.
Second, it will encourage these young people, the future leaders of Malaysian society, to make careful economic decisions. The government has made it a goal to encourage people to become smart consumers. To be smart consumers, people need choice. Giving tertiary students better access to public transportation will give them the opportunity to exercise choice. In other words, they will become smart consumers when they make decisions about whether to invest their money in public transportation or private transportation.
Third, universities and colleges could benefit from helping students save money on public transportation. This will reduce problems with parking and traffic congestion at university and college campuses. I believe that the government, Rapid KL and Rapid Penang, and Malaysian universities and colleges should work together to make public transit use easier for tertiary students. Here is a simple solution.
Universities and colleges could purchase monthly passes in bulk to be used by students and staff as well. The universities and colleges could write the cost of these purchases off as a business expense. The government could encourage them by adding a 'carbon credit' additional discount on taxes. This discount would be well-earned, because of the reduced number of cars on the road.
The universities and colleges could also get a discount from Rapid KL or Rapid Penang because they have purchased a large numbers of passes. The universities and colleges could then sell these passes to their students and staff. Some of the money saved could be used to provide a discount on the monthly passes. Perhaps the cost of the pass could be reduced by RM25 per month. Everyone will win when this happens.
Rapid KL and Rapid Penang would sell more passes. Tertiary students and staff would save money, the universities and colleges would benefit from reduced parking issues and traffic congestion. They would also get tax discounts. Finally, the government would have encouraged public transit use (coming closer to the 40% target) and reduce pollution at the same time.
Of course, this would be a lot easier to accomplish if all of the public transit companies were organised under local public transit authority , rather than under the Commercial Vehicles Licencing Board.
It is almost time for the 2008 Budget to be introduced. I ask the government to please implement these suggested tax discounts to encourage the bulk purchase of monthly transit passes. I also ask the government to introduce local transport authorities in all major cities in Malaysia as soon as possible.