Critics slam proposed charge to ease traffic in Kuala Lumpur


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s main opposition party Monday protested plans to charge motorists a fee to ease traffic congestion in the country’s biggest city, saying it is a burden to the public and akin to a toll.

The proposed fee is premature in the absence of reliable public transport, as driving in Kuala Lumpur is not a luxurious pursuit but an “unfortunate necessity,” said the Democratic Action Party.

Only 16 percent of the city’s more than 2 million people used public transportation in 2004, the latest year figures were available, down from 34 percent in 1985, it said.

“It is mind-boggling that the city hall bothers to entertain such idea like congestion pricing when there is no adequate and efficient public transport as alternative to private vehicles,” it said in a statement.

“Until and unless public transport ridership exceeds 70 percent, Kuala Lumpur is not prepared for congestion pricing. It’s just a toll by another name.” Kuala Lumpur Mayor Abdul Hakim Borhan said over the weekend his office would submit to the Cabinet a study on the proposed fee, mirroring a system used in Stockholm, Sweden.

About 2 million vehicles ply Kuala Lumpur’s streets daily, with traffic growing at 10-15 percent each year, Abdul Hakim was quoted as saying by national Bernama news agency while visiting the Swedish capital.

A congestion fee would be charged to motorists who travel on Kuala Lumpur’s busiest streets.

Congested cities like Singapore and London use such a system during peak times.

City hall officials couldn’t be reached Monday for comment.