It’s a typical Malaysian malaise where several agencies involved in one project don’t seem to be communicating with each other. And Klang Valley motorists are suffering for it, write PATRICK SENNYAH and ELIZABETH JOHN.
YOU are driving along a well travelled road and just as you come round the bend, you run smack into a traffic crawl.
After several frustrating minutes, you clear the snarl. Half a kilometre down the road, you see a very smart-looking digital info board flashing a not very smart message: "Laluan sesak... guna jalan alternatif (traffic busy, use alternative road)."
"It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money," moaned motorist Ahmad Naim, 33, who was stuck for more than two hours in a crawl along Jalan Kuching in Kuala Lumpur recently.
"This is the information I got from the ITIS boards (Integrated Transport Information System).
"We should have boards warning us not to enter the road in the first place, not telling us the obvious when we are in a traffic jam.
"How are we supposed to use an alternative road when there is none."
Ahmad felt the RM400 million spent on these electronic boards should have been used to either improve public transport or upgrade the roads so that they are not affected by floods.
"Till today, I am sure many motorists do not understand the need for these boards. What are they for? To wish us Selamat Hari Raya and Happy Deepavali?"
The aim of ITIS, which became operational last year, is to gather, share and make available accurate and up-to-date traffic information to road users in the Klang Valley.
At present, there are 255 traffic monitoring cameras, 140 electronic signboards, communication nodes and over 728 vehicle detector stations under ITIS.
Motorists also saying there is no co-operation among the various highway concessionaires, police and Kuala Lumpur City Hall, which manages ITIS.
"Sometimes, when we are returning from Seremban and approaching Sungai Besi, we want to know the traffic situation before entering city roads," said R. Sellamdorai, 40.
A Malaysian Highway Authority spokesman who declined to be named acknowledgd that there is no co-operation among the highway concessionaires in sharing traffic information.
"However, there are proposals to set up a single traffic management centre where information nationwide will be gathered and disseminated to motorists," he said.
"This will take time as we need to get all the highway concessionaires to co-operate."
At present, each concessionaire operates individually, using its own control centres and electronic display boards.
A Sprint Highway (Sistem Penyuraian Trafik Kuala Lumpur Barat) spokesperson said at times, they were unable to provide information on alternate routes as the roads were not within their jurisdiction.
"Sometimes an alternate route leads into the area of another concessionaire and we cannot provide such information without their consent."
While frustrated Klang Valley motorists are questioning its effectiveness, Federal Territories Ministry parliamentary secretary Yew Teong Look is optimistic. "Let us not draw conclusions so soon. The system has only been operational for about a year," he said.
"I assure motorists these shortcomings will be ironed out and ITIS will serve its purpose. In fact, a Cabinet committee is expected to be set up soon to look into these problems.
"We have invited the Road Transport Department to give us their input and we can expect to see some improvements soon."
The Automobile Association of Malaysia, too, is reluctant to pass judgment on the system yet.
"Give them time. ITIS is a complex operation which uses state-of-the-art equipment. Some developed countries took a lot of time to get a similar system in place," said AAM vice-chairman Wan Zaharuddin Wan Ahmad.
Singapore, he said, launched the Electronic Monitoring and Advisory Systems in 1998 — two years after the contract was awarded. "This means a lot of work was put into the initial stages before take-off. Even after its launch, there were complaints from the public on the effectiveness and relevance. However, their system is now an asset to the people.
"We need to give City Hall time to fine-tune the system to make it more user related."
ITIS will soon be used for non-traffic purposes as well.
When there is a robbery, car theft or snatch theft, the suspect’s vehicle number and other details will be highlighted on ITIS, said Yew.
"We can use ITIS for other purposes apart from traffic management. This will be implemented in stages."
But before the non-traffic messages are flashed, perhaps the pleas of frustrated motorists should be heeded: That ITIS display boards be placed strategically to warn motorists before they enter congested or flooded roads, and not suggest non-existent alternatives when they are already caught in a crawl.
Integrated Transport Information System
AT the heart of ITIS is the Transport Management Centre (TMC). It’s the nerve centre of the entire system, receiving, processing and disseminating information round-the-clock.
KL City Hall manages ITIS. "
The various highway concessionaires manage their traffic control and surveillance system independently.
" Traffic lights are linked to the TMC but are controlled separately at the City Hall traffic control centre in Jalan Raja Laut."
ITIS gets its data on traffic information from the monitoring cameras and vehicle detector stations and it is linked to City Hall’s traffic control centre.
Officers from the police traffic department and City Hall security and enforcement department are also present at the centre for co-ordination of field responses.
The centre manages about 40 incidents daily varying from minor blockages to significant traffic disruptions.
The centre, with 60 staff, operates in two shifts from Monday to Saturday and a single shift on Sunday.
When it floods...
KUALA Lumpur City Hall gets warnings on the level of rising river waters in real time online from the Drainage and Irrigation Department. But this information doesn’t seem to get onto ITIS info-boards.
Zainal Fikry, principal assistant director for Hydrology, Water Resources and Flood Mitigation of the Federal Territory DID, said they monitor five rivers — Batu, Keroh, Gombak, Kelang and Kerayong.
"The information on the water levels at these rivers is available to City Hall 24 hours a day and is updated every 15 minutes. City Hall is also informed online if these rivers reach the alert, warning or danger levels."
Zainal said the danger level indicates that the area near a particular river would flood in about an hour.
"DID is not able to predict floods in areas that are far from rivers, but we are working on this. We are analysing historical rainfall and flood data for the city and this will show us which areas are likely to flood if rainfall is high in a particular area," he said.
A Project Lebuhraya Utara Selatan spokesman said Plus receives information from road users on any flooding or other incidents along the expressway.
The highway then verifies the incident through their patrol units and conveys the information to the media for radio announcements and traffic updates.
"However, we do not have any link to the ITIS, but information is relayed to the ITIS control centre by phone since that system is independent."
PLUS operates eight traffic information boards located at selected areas along their expressways.
PATRICK SENNYAH and ELIZABETH JOHN
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