ASK any transport economist the impact of the closure of a major arterial road in the city centre for one month and the obvious reply will be “Are you mad to even suggest it?”
The decision by KL City Hall (DBKL) to close Jalan Raja to accommodate the Ramadan Bazaar for one month not only disrupted the free flow of traffic especially during rush hours (and in the process the usual traffic jams were made worse and chaotic) but the closure also had significant negative ramifications on the rest of the congested road network in the city.
The jam was at its peak during the rush hours after 5pm. There was high travel demand as thousands of office workers wanted to return home to be on time to break fast.
Roads are meant for the exclusive use of vehicles and pedestrians and not for commercial purposes. Given the limited road infrastructure in the city centre, what little is available was used for non-transport purposes.
City Hall has been trying hard to find ways to ease traffic congestion in the city but the closure had worsened the situation. Were City Hall’s traffic management officials consulted? What were the measures taken to ease traffic congestion due to this closure? Was this ever given some thought?
Did City Hall officials take into account the negative externalities involved – the extra time and cost taken to reach one’s destination, the deep frustration and health-related stress of motorists, the cost of the extra fuel, wear and tear of the vehicles, just to name a few?
Instead of optimising the existing road infrastructure to improve flow capacities and responding to traffic demand at different times of the day, City Hall did just the opposite. Such an ad hoc measure made KL city less accessible to road users and caused a major inconvenience and hardship to vehicle owners.
The situation was made worse with major upgrading works still being done at the nearby Jalan Dato’ Onn (Bank Negara) roundabout. The heavy evening downpours did not help.
In very special circumstances and during holidays, roads may be closed say during major significant national events such as the Merdeka parade (but only for a few hours) but definitely not for one whole month!
Hopefully the mayor will ensure that the debacle by KL City Hall this year will not be repeated.
Dr Pola Singh
Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Malaysia