I am a big believer in public transportation. There is something that is soothingly democratic about it: the systematic way it works (or is supposed to work), as well as the variety and mass of people using it.
We’re fortunate enough to live somewhere that is very accessible to the city’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) network, to the extent that I am able to leave for work quite late in the morning and still be in at work much earlier than many of my colleagues.
The same isn’t true of my kampung, TTDI, however. For years, we had to drive over to Kelana Jaya LRT station (or Taman Bahagia), park and only then get on a train. Now we have our own Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stop!
The MRT was launched with much fanfare at the end of last year. It basically is Najib’s legacy project, his answer to Tun M’s PETRONAS Twin Towers and LRT system. Politics aside, there is no denying that this project is much needed in order to alleviate traffic congestion in the city. I don’t agree much with our Prime Minister, but he is right when he said that the problem we see today is the result of years of favouring national car manufacturers and building dozens of tolled expressways.
Picture from The Star
My wife and I decided to give the MRT a go at the end of December last year. The line still is not fully operational, working only from Sungai Buloh to Semantan for now. We tested the line from TTDI to PBD. There were rumours previously that the station was supposed to be on the current site of Pasar TTDI. Fearing demolition, the tenants kicked up a fuss and now, it is straddled between the swanky new apartment complex (TTDI Ascencia) and TTDI Plaza.
The station does not come with a park and ride facility. Given that there were not many users yet, we managed to park right outside station. I think the TTDI station is meant to be accessed using one of the many regular feeder busses that ply the route in TTDI and Sg. Penchala, but whether TTDI folks will actually use them is another story.
First impressions are: Wow! The station is huge and swanky; much bigger than the LRT which we take regularly. There is a huge ceiling fan installed, which created a nice, gentle breeze and regulated the ambient temperature.
I didn’t manage to take any closeups of the tile work, but the tiles were thoughtfully laid down to accentuate the train exit and entry points. The platform seemed to be disabled-friendly, but we didn’t manage to test the elevators.
We were quite giddy to board the train, as we were the only ones there. The carriages are modern-looking and have a futuristic feel about them. The glass panels used for the platform barriers also look clean and high-tech. I just hope that they keep up its maintenance and cleaning (smudgy fingertips?).
Interesting colour choice for the seats, rails and handle bars. The design on the glass panelling is thoughtful; it has an “Islamic modernist” feel to it. But frankly, clear glass probably would have sufficed. The width seemed to be double that of the LRT, so you can imagine how it is like to not have to squeeze in during peak hours.
I particularly liked the display system used in the train. It clearly signalled which station the train is currently at, which it just passed, and which it is headed to next. In the interim journey, it would play a variety of videos and ads, similar to the train system in Bangkok.
I do hope that the train’s interior will be kept largely free from print advertisements though. It would be great if they could take the lead from London’s Underground and place some thoughtful excerpts of Malaysian poetry, peribahasa and the like instead. It would go a long way to promoting a love of the arts and overall civic-mindedness.
The views from outside the window were gorgeous that day. Having grown up in the area, it’s an amazing feeling to get different perspectives on places that you thought you really new well (like the Bukit Kiara cemetery and the areas surrounding Phileo Damansara).
I’ve never seen the KGPA from above, and the views are really something else. It is from up here that you realise that many parts of KL are quite heavily wooded and even forested. The Government is already taking steps to increasing the tree count in the city, but I wish they’d ramp up such efforts in other areas.
When we arrived at PBD, I managed to make use of the bathrooms and had a look at their surau. They were spacious and clean enough, but hopefully the management will maintain high standards in the future.
All in all, our MRT experience was quite pleasant. I’m personally looking forward to the opening of the entire line in July. I can’t wait to check out the Muzium Negara, Stadium Merdeka and Pasar Seni stations in particular, since apparently they’ve taken great care to ensure that the station and platform designs reflect aspects of Malaysian history.