Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Malacca curse

Malacca is a great holiday destination BUT for their traffic. If there is one area that the state authorities have failed Malacca, it is in the lack of traffic management. When I was in Malacca about 10 days ago, I was appalled by the helplessness of their state government to implement an effective traffic control in the town centre. When speaking to long-suffering residents there, I was told that they have simply given up on travelling into the heart of town during the weekends and especially the public holidays.

The reason for this horrendous situation is that Malacca is cursed by being exactly at the half-way point between the Klang Valley and Singapore. During long public holidays that spill into the weekends, troves of holiday seekers from these two areas descend on Malacca - a mere two hours of driving from either Kuala Lumpur or Johor Bahru - and their vehicles fuck up the whole traffic system.

Of course, it's not to say that there is no traffic congestion outside of the public holidays. Even on normal days, I hear that traffic can be bad enough, especially during rush hour in the mornings and afternoons or during school dismissal times, but there is nothing like the public holidays that bring out the worst in Malacca. Businesses may be happy to see the holiday seekers but not the residents.

How much of this problem is being addressed by the Malacca state government remains unknown to me because after all, I was only a casual visitor to the state. However, two days was enough for me to come to a safe conclusion. So much more can be achieved than to turn the narrow roads in the town centre into one-way streets. Imagine....for me to leave the Stadthuys and go to the Jonker Street area, I had to make a big, slow circular drive that took me past landmarks like the Mahkota Parade, Hotel Equatorial, Malacca High School and the Francis Xavier Church and then - only then - after fighting the traffic along Jalan Laksamana to inch from the left side of this one-way road to its right side, cross the Malacca river: a 45-minute travel time to a destination that was just across the river!

In this aspect, the town planners have failed Malacca miserably. What's the use of building a flyover over the mouth of the Malacca river when it hasn't reduced the traffic congestion problem? From my vantage point at the Mahkota Hotel, I could see that 90 percent of the time, the traffic congestion was mono-directional. In the other direction, traffic flow was totally minimal, almost negligible. And then there's the problem of Jalan Merdeka being the main traffic artery in this part of town. This road is already bursting at the seams with the Mahkota Parade on the right and the Dataran Pahlawan on the left and yet, traffic in all directions seem to be converging on this one road before dispersing everywhere else, which makes it a classic example of a bottleneck!

Hence this request for the Malacca town planners to re-look into your traffic flow and decide whether (1) you can close off some of the narrow ones and convert them into "pedestrian only" passageways during weekends and public holidays, (2) build more infrastructure that will bypass the town centre and (3) you can disallow any more new commercial development within a 10-kilometre radius of the town centre. This much, you owe your long-suffering residents in the state.


stephen said...

Penang was just as bad during the christmas holidays.I nearly went berserk.It was grid locked on the main arterial roads.
The problem for most cities in malaysia is not the roads but the unchecked population of cars.This is not helped by the government encouraging car ownership in order to support the local car manufacturers.
The other thing that is seriously lacking is a clear plan to develop public transportation to discourage commuters from using their cars.

Quah, Seng-Sun said...

Actually, Stephen, the traffic in George Town is not as bad as in Malacca. Although there are narrow roads here too, they are not the main thoroughfares in the city. But what you observed is correct: public transportation must be developed adequately to discourage ownership of private vehicles.