Before I leave...


Written on 3/12/2006 09:24:00 pm by sikapitan

I just got back from Shah Alam, after sitting through a silly exam. Yes, exams on Sunday and it’s not even examination week (which is not too far ahead actually). That’s how busy I am these days. It’s not just the workload (which in actual fact, is not as crazy as I seem to suggest), but it’s balancing everything in my life – education, family, girlfriend (some of my cheekier friends would suggest the plural form be used, but I have to disagree – there’s only one true love), friends, sports…the list of things to do seems endless. Which leaves me with little time on my own, but that’s balancing your priorities I guess.

But back to the trip to Shah Alam. The trip itself was pretty uneventful. What interests me was my fuel gauge. I’m sure Kingdom of Blogs is filled with Malaysians grumbling about the increase in petrol prices. In actual fact, I was one of the lucky ones who managed to fill up my tank right before the price jumped to RM 1.92 per litre. Yeah, it’s two bucks per lit now. My fuel gauge is saying I should go visit Mr. Shell, but the odometer is saying I’ve only traveled 360 kilometers, give or take a few meters. This is absolutely pathetic.

Mad rush to fill up before midnight...

When I first got my Jazz, it was doing around 550km per RM50, which is darn good value for money. Then the gradual increase in petrol prices, and the now regrettable change to 16-inch rims, pushed the figure south till it held steady at 410km per RM50. Now it’s barely reaching 400 kilometers, and that bothers me. I limit myself to RM50 for petrol per week, and thus far I’ve managed to keep it that way. But it looks like I have to fork out an extra RM 10-15 now, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t too bad.

Some of you might thing I’m a bit daft for saying that, but just look around you. The jams are still there. Car-pooling is as foreign as Aston Martins on Malaysian roads. People are still going to the sundry shop in their motorcar. There’s a reason why Malaysia is the biggest passenger car market here in South-East Asia. We love our cars, and we somehow love driving it, though that does not necessarily equate to being good at it.

We will find a way to max out our petrol tank till the last drop, we will find a way to squeeze out that extra RM 10 from our weekly expenses, we will find a way to travel further on the same amount of fuel even if it means driving without air-conditioning, keeping all the one-cent change we get or leaving house at 5 a.m to avoid the jam. Malaysia boleh what! What we won’t do is suddenly take up public transportation.

Why? I can’t give you a definite answer, but there are reasons why you won’t see me on the next Citylink heading out to KL with my girlfriend. First and foremost, the routes are pretty much messed up. When news of the price increase spread, I asked my friend if there’s any bus from USJ heading to Shah Alam. Apparently, there’s none. You have to take a bus, stop at the Federal Highway, cross over to the other side, and wait for the bus heading to Shah Alam. From there, you take another bus to Section 2, where you’ll wait in line for UiTM buses to carry you into campus. All in all, it takes approximately more than one hour for the entire trip, without considering buses breaking down or you having to go for an emergency toilet stop.

And that’s just the bus trip. Let us not forget our wonderful weather, which of course I thank God for blessing us with, but that does not detract from the fact that the tropics is not exactly meant for walking. The humidity itself will render your G2000 pink shirt looking like you’ve just rescued a drowning person. The sunrays will burn your skin, and for god sake’s, we don’t need the tan. Oh, what about the days when the sun decides to hide it behind monstrous clouds that pour wonderful rain? Basically, it’s just not practical. It might sound pretentious, and a bit “manja”, but ask any normal-looking bus-riding individual if they prefer buses to cars, and the answer would generally be cars.

Frankly speaking, I am not against the increase. I understand the whole economics of subsidies, how it’s going to impede our progress in the future. I for one believe that Malaysians are over-subsidized, which is ironic coming from a UiTM student. But the lessening of subsidies must commensurate with other things. It is just not enough for the petrol price to increase, but other variables remaining constant.

Malaysia is slow in adopting diesel engines, which in modern cars have proven to be more economical, friendlier to the environment, and performs better too. Gone are the days when diesel engines sound like a sawing mill. Diesel is the way to go, while waiting for other viable alternative source of fuel. Cars having diesel engines should no longer be penalized with higher road taxes.

And when will the Government announce the much-awaited National Automotive Policy? Car buyers will wonder if there’s anything there that could cushion the dent in their wallet, perhaps by lowering duties on new cars and removing those protection that is actually a breach of our international obligation with regards to AFTA.

A revamp of the public transportation system is on the way. Consolidation of services would make for better managed transport system. It’s not that we should totally rely on public transport. Perhaps creating more mini-terminals all around major residential would help. These terminals could house 1,000 cars, and buses would travel direct routes to other mini-terminals. From there, feeder buses will deliver passengers to all the major stop points. The Komuter and LRT would be better if there’s a proper car park for car users to place their car, something like the Kelana Jaya LRT station.

I’ll leave the details to the policy makers. Perhaps even with these measures I won’t take public transportation, but others would, and lessening traffic would undoubtedly result in time saved from facing traffic jams which in turn would mean savings in petrol used.

Until then, if you’re used to bringing your girlfriend to Chilli’s once a week, try Papa Chop Mama Grill for a change. That will save you at least RM 20 per week. Maybe you don’t need that Movie Package on Astro, and that will save you another RM 15. Or maybe stop that gym membership, and start jogging around your residential area. Or simply order plain water every time you eat outside. You don’t have to choose to do all this. Choose one, and you’ve already covered your extra petrol expenses.

To Pak Lah, don’t apologize or try to give other incentives. It’s redundant if the Government reduces fuel subsidies and then using the money saved on other forms of subsidies. Just use the money to give us better, safer, more efficient public transport system. Just promote diesel cars, and invest in alternative fuel research. Just do things sensibly, with the outright interest of the nation in mind (and sometimes that doesn’t necessarily mean the interest of the people), and you’ll be fine.

I am not bitter, nor angry. I am just curiously waiting for the next roll of the dice. It’s useless to moan.

By the way, I’ll be off to Hong Kong on a University-sponsored trip. So adios and take care.