MRT: a good start, more attention to details needed

Sungai Buloh – Kajang MRT line is not perfect but it connects people from far flung areas of the Klang Valley together. Despite the teething problems it provides a great comfortable ride. All it takes to make it more attractive to car drivers is a more comprehensive “last-mile” connections of feeder buses that cover many more areas and run on more frequent scheduled services.

The launch of the MRT first complete line from Sungai Buloh to Kajang was done with much funfair on and prior to D-day of July 17, 2017.

As an avid public transport user and advocate, I too went on to test out the MRT line. My wife, daughter and I fancied having our favourite satay at Restaurant Malaysia, Kajang. So we took the LRT from Taipan station to KL Sentral to change to the MRT at Museum Negara.

Instead of writing a long story, I shall let the pictures speak a thousand words each! [but with my captions!]

Where is the link way?

tiny signage
So which way is Museum Negara MRT station?

Coming from Nu Sentral mall’s direction, the link way to Museum Negara MRT station is just beside McDonald on the right. But you will need to walk right near the entrance to spot the MRT logo.

Spot the MRT logo & you will know where to go!

Once inside, you will need to have very good eyesight to spot the tiny MRT logo on the signage inside the huge hallway (which was partly the waiting area for the ERL previously). Then it is a matter of “follow the crowd”. You will reach the “very deep” underground Museum Negara MRT station.

Where’s the contingency plan when technology fouls up?

Where the heck are we?

The MRT train that we boarded at Museum Negara had problems with its “station indicator” LED screen. This was made worse by the fact that the audio announcement of impending station was linked fully with this. So if one kaput, all kaput!. The MRT coach was well lit. So when we stopped at an underground station, one would have to literally step out of the coach quickly, and look for the signs that tell us which station we were at. There was also not a single Sungai Buloh – Kajang MRT line map inside the coach (there would be many places to stick this), so we could not even use the age-old system of counting station to know where we were!

When it is working, this thing is great!


A tried and tested, simple map to show the MRT line like this on the old LRT coach will be great!

We should not place so much faith in technology working every time. A simple map of the MRT line like that found in the older LRT coaches would “insure” against the electronic announcement system (both audio and visual) failing.

Plenty of space in MRT coach to stick more useful information like stations along the line!

Instead of these self-congratulatory stick-on posters, why don’t we have useful information like a line map, bigger sized full RapidKL rail system map etc. put up?

One of the side benefits of the MRT line –  Kajang satay vendors could not cope with demand!

Kajang satay, it’s worth the trip!

We reached Kajang and went straight to Restaurant Malaysia for our favourite satay. We were lucky to have arrived 5 minutes earlier than the crowd. Many were eyeing our table! The MRT line really shortens the distances between towns within the Klang Valley and the first economic benefits felt in Kajang is the sale of satay! Many more economic benefits shall follow!

Seamless transfer between MRT and LRT, a great feature

We went home from Kajang Stadium to USJ by changing form the MRT to LRT (Kelana Jaya line) at Pasar Seni. The sight was great but I was more attracted to the seamless transfer between the two lines. This is the most crucial factor to ease the congestion (of people getting out of one line and joining into another). You will also be fully protected from the elements getting from the MRT line to the LRT. I feel that if more seamless transfer can be made available, it will make life a lot easier. One candidate up for seamless transfer will be the Monorail and LRT at KL Sentral.

My take on the MRT

Despite what the critics have said, I think the MRT system is a great addition to the Klang Valley public transport system. It will surely bring up the economic value of properties around the stations. Kajang folks have already seen more visitors than before!

If the teething issues highlighted by yours truly can be looked into, I think the MRT system, which has broader coaches (thus steadier to ride) will help to convince more people to follow yours truly, to take public transport as the first option. The only thing that is stopping this is the last-mile linkages which is still very rudimentary. Feeder bus service (more lines and more frequent services) need to be extended in coverage and hours of operation. It is often the last-mile issue that forces people to have to drive.

RapidKL needs simple lesson in maths!

RapidKL could have avoided this botched up if those in charge have done some simple mathematics like what I had done. It does not need a Ph.D. in Operational Management for one to figure this out and plan accordingly. It is clear from my calculation that RapidKL will not be able to complete the issuance of all 68,000 new MyRapid concessionary cards before the deadline of mid July 2017. I think the sooner that RapidKL owns up to this fact and makes an contingency plan, the better it is to salvage its tarnished reputation.

The much anticipated changing of MyRapid cards to the new version to coincide with the launch of the full first MRT line in the country started in earnest from mid June 2017.

No issue with changing of non-concessionary MyRapid cards

As one of the first holders of the original version of the MyRapid card, I went to USJ 7 LRT station and changed this to the new version on June 16, 2017 without any difficulty. The entire process, inclusive of waiting time (with 2 persons ahead of me) was around eight minutes.

Chaos reign in changing of concessionary MyRapid cards

But no sooner that this exercise was announced, the press had been receiving and reporting a severe botch up by RapidKL in the changing of concessionary MyRapid cards. This author’s daughter who holds an original version of the college student’s concessionary MyRapid card, which she just obtained less than two months ago, on hearing the chaos at Pasar Seni LRT station had decided to wait.

The social media was rife with horror stories of people, especially senior citizens having to wait for hours, often without any seats and still could not get their old MyRapid cards replaced. There were also announcements that only 200 concession cards would be issued at Pasar Seni LRT station each day and after the queue numbers are taken up, commuters would have to make another trip and try their luck the next day. Someone announced that there are only three new card processing machines at Pasar Seni. My wife who had been monitoring the social media on this issue also spotted a student whose old MyRapid concessionary card was due to expire soon being told that he must change to the new card, which will carry the same impending expiry date and when this card expires, he will be required to apply for another card.

My wife was fast in spotting the announcement on June 21, 2017 about the setting up of two additional card processing centres, one at Subang Jaya and the other at Awan Besar and alerted my daughter who got her MyRapid student concessionary cards done within 30 minutes. So did a couple of her friends but others were not so fortunate. By then, my daughter spotted chairs being decked out for applicants and RapidKL’s staff even provided free biscuits to her while she was waiting. While these acts of providing convenience to commuters waiting for their new cards to be processed are commendable, they came a little too late, the reputational damage to RapidKL had already been done.

A little maths would have spotted the impending chaos

I wonder if those who are responsible for this entire concessionay cards replacement exercise at RapidKL really employ any simple operation management practices to estimate the size of the job and thus the time needed to complete the exercise.

I had used a simple spreadsheet to estimate the number of days needed to replace all 68,000 concessionary MyRapid cards in Tables 1, 2 and 3 below. It was reported that each MyRapid card processing machine takes around three minutes to process and issue  a new card. However, if we take into account the time needed to key in the command (assuming the data migration from the old to the new card would be seamless) and physically handling of the card during the process, this could easily add two minutes to the process, making it a five minutes job. This does not include the actual time taken for the applicants to present the old card, checking of credentials etc. On social media, a figure of 15 minutes was quoted as the “actual” time for a new card to be produced, from the time the applicant hands in the old card. Given that it takes 3 , 5, or  15 minutes to process a new card, I ask a few simple questions:

  1. How many cards can be issued a day if the machine is made to work 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 20, 24 hours?
  2. How many cards can be issued if RapidKL has 1, 3, 6, 9 or more machines on seven different total working hours per day?
  3. How many days will it take to issue all 68,000 concessionary MyRapid cards in each of the different scenarios as given in (1) and (2)?




Note: I have published a Google Sheet containing the data for Table 3. Readers can play around with two of the key parameters, no. of cards to process and how long to process each card to see how these affect the outcome.

Why the rush?
It is clear from my calculation that RapidKL will not be able to complete the issuance of all 68,000 new MyRapid concessionary cards before the deadline of mid July 2017. I think the sooner that RapidKL owns up to this fact and makes an contingency plan, the better it is to salvage its tarnished reputation. I wonder why was the rush to complete all concession cards replacement within 30 days from June 16, 2017 given the estimation in the tables above that even if it takes only 3 minutes (which is just how fast the machine works) to complete the processing of one new MyRapid concessionary card, it would take 9 machines working fourteen-hours-day a good 27 days to complete the job. If we put in extra couple of minutes, the 9 machines would have to work 24 hours a day to churn out 68,000 new cards within one month. If it takes 15 minutes of total processing time (including physical handling of the cards, sorting etc.) as has been reported recently, the 9 machines working 24 hours a day would not be able to complete the job in 30 days. In fact, with a 15 minutes turnaround time, it would take 24 card processing machines and the whole replacement card exercise to run 24 hours per day (assuming applicants and staff will be willing to get this done 24 hours a day) to churn out 68,000 new cards within 30 days! And if RapidKL just stick to 9 machines working non-stop with a processing time of 15 minutes, it will take 79 days to process all 68,000 new cards!

What should RapidKL do?

Here are some of the suggestions I can make to tackle this issue:

  1. Own up that someone at RapidKL did not do his/her homework and bungled the whole thing.
  2. Set up an online application system for replacement of MyRapid concessionary cards for students ONLY and drive them to use the online application, thus taking them (I would assume that this group is the largest of all concessionary cards holders) off the queue.
  3. Continue to process MyRapid concessionary card replacement exercise at the three centres for senior citizens and the disabled. Open up the online application system to these two groups of people so that those who are tech-savvy will be removed from the queues.
  4. Let all holders of MyRapid concessionary card use their old cards for another two month and continue the “token” system at the MRT system for these commuters. This will also remove the rush for all other concessionary card users to get their cards replaced by mid July 2017, thus removing the long queues at the three designated card processing centres of Pasar Seni, Subang Jaya and Awan Besar LRT stations.
  5. Let the students nominate the most convenient LRT or MRT station to collect their new cards, thereby further reducing the crowd at the three replacement card processing centres.

With the students all applying online (this group should be the most tech savvy and will not have any issue), the overall processing time of the cards for this group will not be 15 minutes, as there is no need for the applicants to wait and the initial processing/ data crunching and verifications etc. are all done online and upfront. Thus if all the 9 machines (plus staff on shifts) working 24 hours a day, it will take an additional 45 – 60 days (i.e. total of about 75 – 90 days) to complete the exercise.

Why we need to round up the value to multiples of RM5?

In fact one odd thing that I noticed when I changed my old MyRapid card to the new one was the strange request from the nice RapidKL staff at USJ 7 LRT station for me to top up my card to RM45 (from something like RM37). She told me that the system would work better if the migration of data was done with stored value in multiples of RM5! This, I think added to the waiting and processing time, especially if the card holders (of both types of MyRapid cards) are not informed of this. Why we need the tail to wag the dog is one mystery that RapidKL needs to explain.

Have “organizational memory” and not repeat this botch up!

RapidKL could have avoided this botched up if those in charge have done some simple mathematics like what I had done. It does not need a Ph.D. in Operational Management for one to figure this out and plan accordingly.

Having more card processing machines than the 9 at present may help to speed things up, but it may break the budget and may be wasteful when there is another change in the technology that mandated another round of upgrades. Thus planning and using logical thinking is the key!

Why was the MRT ticketing system being allowed to be incompatible with the first version of MyRapid card shall remain a mystery. More intriguing was, why the first version of MyRapid cards were allowed to be issued in the first place since these were clearly not fully compatible with the Touch N Go system which caused the replacement exercise? I think that RapidKL owes the taxpayer an explanation on both counts.

Of course if the intention was to reduce the 68,000 concessionary cards holders substantially, then the chaotic way the whole exercise is carried out and the short processing period are the “right” things to do!

RapidKL needs more feeder bus services to link up LRT & MRT

Why’s RapidKL, having a great cross link feeder bus route like T807 that links up a LRT station with a closeby MRT station, has chosen to keep so quiet about it? How come RapidKL can design a great linkage route in T807 and not able to do the same for other feeder bus routes to link up more LRT stations with closeby MRT stations? Why RapidKL launched the MRT feeder bus service with a cashless system that does not accept your own Myrapid cards but “traditional” TouchnGo cards only?

Please put up your hands if you have taken any RapidKL feeder buses? What about the spanking new and very comfortable RapidKL MRT feeder buses?

I have not done any survey, but unless one is seriously planning to use the LRT, MRT or buses or a more likely scenario, a combination of two or more of these, you may not have bothered to notice what is available. Here is one little story on how I discovered a gem in RapidKL which I would like to share with my readers.

My daughter has just started her college in early January 2017. As luck will have it, her college is not one of the many located in the “college belt” of Subang Jaya – Bandar Sunway any of which would have been just at most 10 km or one RapidKL bus away. Hers is located in Kota Damansara, which is over 20 km away, near where I used to work! At first, I would drive her to college from USJ every day, then I would drive home, repeating the same in the evening. Thus I would often get caught in the daily peak hours traffic jam which is the fact of life for many Klang Valley residents. On a good day, I would spend around 4 hours doing the two round trips. On a bad day (especially on a rainy day), I could add at least another hour to my commuting hours just to play chauffeur to my offspring (well this is not entirely true as I would make her drive me back in the evening to give this “P” plate, a.k.a probationary driver more practice!).

Our (actually, mainly mine) daily drive would start from USJ in the morning (we had to hit the road by 08:30 to make it on time), then mainly we would use the North Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) from Subang Jaya exit to Kota Damansara exit and would get stuck in the famous “Surian squeeze” at Persiaran Surian heading towards our destination near Sunway Giza. The journey back for me would take a bit shorter, mostly because I would be using the smaller roads that link Kota Damansara to Ara Damansara passing by Tropicana Golf and Country Resort. This would be the same route I would choose in the evening to and from Kota Damansara.

As my daughter got settled into her college life, she would not be finishing classes “on time” in the evening and would be having the usual college student’s activities outside the lecture rooms. Thus we knew that with the rise in my own business activities (after my stint in Penang which ended in early Dec 2016), it would come a time that she would need to rely on public transport to commute to and from her college. So I went on to discover what were available from RapidKL. Although “USJ-ians” like us are fortunate to have the LRT now practically near our doorsteps, and the MRT phase 1 linking Kota Damansara to Semantan is now operational, it is not easy to find a direct link up between the two systems. If you do a cursory search on the internet, you will know that Klang Valley’s existing LRT, Monorail, the new MRT systems plus most of the RapidKL buses have many direct routes to different parts of KL city centre from the suburb like “the spokes of a bicycle wheel”. But there are precious little linkages at the suburb to connect any two systems. A good public transport system should be like a spider web, with spokes and lots of cross links which sadly the current Klang Valley system just does not have.

We tried  RapidKL’s “traditional” feeder bus service 802 which was supposed to link up Kelana Jaya LRT station with Kota Damansara. On the morning of our “trial”, we started our journey a bit earlier than usual, leaving Taipan LRT station at 07:15 and arriving at Kelana Jaya by 07:40. I was happy to notice that the LED signboard said that there would be a 802 bus arriving in 5 minutes and one more in 18 minutes. But little did I know that those busses were the “planned” services. What actually happened was purely depending on the number of buses (I presume, the drivers turning up for work) available and the prevailing traffic congestion on key roads.

The information on the LED signboard at Kelana Jaya LRT interchange is not an accurate reflection on the buses available on the ground!
The information on the LED signboard at Kelana Jaya LRT interchange is not an accurate reflection on the buses available on the ground!

When I went to the information counter, where one RapidKL staff was sitting and eating to enquire about the no-show of 802 buses, I was ignored by the man. I then tapped on the counter’s sliding window and the man went berserk and scolded me in Malay (“Are you blind? Can’t you see I am eating”).

The information counter is used as a canteen by RapidKL bus drivers who would not be pleased if you disturb them enjoying their meals while on duty!
This information counter in Kelana Jaya interchange is used as a canteen by RapidKL bus drivers who would not be pleased if you disturb them enjoying their meals while on duty!

To me, he was sitting at the information counter and so he was on duty to serve customers like me. I did not mind that he was eating, so long as I got my answers. There was no reason for him to be so rude. As far as I know, the information counter was not a rest area nor was it a canteen for the staff on duty. When the man saw me taking photographs of his “canteen” and the LED signboard he calmed down a bit and came out to tell me that bus 802 should be starting ‘soon” and pointed to one of the stationary buses to say, “that’s your bus, wait for the driver and let me eat my food.” 45 minutes after the first bus 802 was supposed to arrive, we finally got onto the bus that was pointed to me earlier. It took about 80 minutes for us to get from Kelana Jaya LRT station to Surian MRT station and my daughter arrived just in time for her class. I took the same bus which was on a loop service back to Kelana Jaya LRT station which took about 60 minutes. With so many uncertainties and variables, we needed to find an alternative to this travel route!

Next, we tried out RapidKL Bus 780 which we could only take at Asia Jaya LRT station in Petaling Jaya (three stations further away from Kelana Jaya station). The bus took about 1 hour to get from Asia Jaya LRT station to Surian MRT station and the return journey took about the same time. We had to wait about 20 minutes each way. There was however one major problem. On the return route (from Kota Damansara to Petaling Jaya), bus 780 did not pass by Asia Jaya LRT station. I had to alight at the bus stop next to Sri Petaling school, cross the busy Jalan Semangat and walk about 800 meters to Asia Jaya LRT station. This option was a bit better than the RapidKL Bus 802 route as there were more bus 780 on the road and hence the wait was more manageable. But it was still not ideal as we would be travelling extra distances needlessly and the return trip involved a long walk.

It was then that I remembered on my many car trips to and from Kota Damansara I saw the new RapidKL MRT Feeder Bus, T807 and often wondered what route did this bus serve. After several searches of both RapidKL’s site and many transport related sites, I had the mini-Eureka moment! T807 is one of the very few cross links that RapidKL’s MRT and LRT have. For those who are not familiar, RapidKL, for reasons known only to itself, has two types of feeder buses. The old RapidKL buses with the “T” prefixes and the ultra comfortable RapidKL MRT feeder buses with a different outer paintwork but bearing the same “T” prefixes. One thing is strange. RapidKL MRT feeder buses do not accept RapidKL’s own Myrapid cashless cards!

T807 links up the depot of Kelana Jaya LRT line at Lembah Subang LRT station to Surian MRT station, serving both the Ara Damansara residents as well as those living around the Tropicana Golf and Country Resort. My daughter only needs to wait at most 20 minutes for T807 at both ends of this route (as show below).

Extracted from Myrapid’s website.

The T807 journey takes from 15 minutes off-peak to 25 minutes at the peak hours of the evening. On average, she will now take around 1 hour to travel from Taipan LRT station to Surian MRT station followed by a 15-minutes walk to the college. I am happy. I need not pay too much attention to the traffic news on Melody FM each morning now! And I do not have to clock in 80 plus kilometers on my car each day! My daughter is happy. She does not feel guilty for having me wait in the car for her to finish her day  (sometimes the wait could be up to 40 minutes) at the college and thus giving her more time and flexibility to socialise with her college mates. As T807 takes on mostly “inner” roads, apart from the stretch close to Lembah Subang LRT station where the “tunnels” which allow cars to get across the NKVE are located (which jams up at peak hours), can promise commuters with a pretty accurate timing of its services.


One must pose this question to the power that be who runs RapidKL… If you have a great cross link feeder bus route like T807 that links up a LRT station with a closeby MRT station, why keep so quiet about it? I would have expected RapidKL to publicize this route to the maximum! My second grouse with RapidKL… how come you can design a great linkage route in T807 and not able to do the same for other feeder bus routes to link up more LRT stations with closeby MRT stations? T807 serves a great link for people on the Kelana Jaya Line LRT to take the MRT at Surian Station. My third grouse with RapidKL… why launch the MRT feeder bus service with a cashless system that does not accept your own Myrapid cards but “traditional” TouchnGo cards only?

My daughter’s feedback on T807 service, “The bus drivers of T807 are very nice to the riders!” should be something that RapidKL should take pride in and gloat about! I just hope that RapidKL does not take away this gem of a feeder bus service or change its route unnecessarily in the future!

My final grouse (actually 2 grouses) with RapidKL…Do check that you have accurate information posted on your LED signboards and remove non-existing bus services so that your customers are not misled. Please make sure that your staff on duty at the information counter at the Kelana Jaya interchange do provide friendly and accurate information services to bus users and remind them that this location is not their canteen.  They should take a leave from the guys manning the T807 service and learn to be courteous to their customers!