MP SPEAKS | The full MRT line from Sungai Buloh to Kajang has been operational for a week already. After the initial fanfare and trains packed with ministers, MRT has to now face the challenges of (i) reaching its daily ridership targets (ii) ensuring accessibility, affordability and integration and (iii) maintaining financial sustainability.
1) Reaching its daily ridership targets
This may seem like an obvious statement but the main challenge for the MRT is to get more and more people to use it. According to MRT, the planned capacity for the Sungai Buloh-Kajang line (Line 1) is a daily ridership of about 400,00 passengers. Each train set has four cars with a total capacity of 1,200 passengers and the trains will run at a frequency of approximately 3.5 minutes. More recently, this figure has been revised downwards to a ridership of 150,000 a day.
It will take some time before users get used to taking the MRT including getting to know the MRT route, the feeder bus schedules and route, how to use the MRT to connect to other forms of public transportation such as the LRT, KTM and Rapid KL buses and the stations which have car parks.
To put the 150,000 daily ridership number in context, it is useful to compare to the daily ridership numbers for the Kelana Jaya and Ampang LRT lines (See Figure 1 below)
The Kelana Jaya line is the busiest with a daily ridership of 218,888 in Q1 2017 followed by the Ampang line with a daily ridership of 155,217. The KTM Komuter has a daily ridership of 111,163 and the KL Monorail trails behind with a daily ridership of 54,725.
The daily ridership of the LRT, KTM Komuter and Monorail experienced a decline in Q1 2016 due to the significant fare hike which took place in December 2015. In fact, all these rail lines have not recovered from their pre-Q1 2016 daily ridership numbers even though the LRT extension to Putra Heights started its operations in June 2016.
The increase in the daily ridership numbers from Q2 2016 to Q3 2016 was hardly significant. The daily ridership of the KL Monorail reached a four year low in Q1 2017 partly due to the delay in the delivery of the four car monorail by SCOMI to Prasarana (The dispute between SCOMI and Prasarana is still tied up in the courts).
The whole point of building an MRT line rather than a less expensive LRT line is to increase the passenger capacity. While the initial targeted daily ridership of 150,000 is a good target to aim for in the short term, in the longer run, the MRT Line 1 ridership should eventually exceed that of the Kelana Jaya LRT line.
In the meantime, MRT has to face the challenge to increase its daily ridership by ten-fold, from 15,000 before the line was fully operational, to Kajang to the targeted 150,000 now that Line 1 is fully operational...