Friday, August 10, 2007

Two Thumbs Up For Rapid Penang

I managed to ride on the Rapid Penang buses before I went down to Kuala Lumpur and I must say I'm very impressed with the service. If I wasn't convinced enough that Rapid Penang's future seems bright enough based on my observations during the first two days of its service, travelling on the buses on the final day of free rides all but confirmed it.

I had to purchase an express bus ticket at the Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal for my trip down to KL. Since Rapid Penang introduced a new route from Air Itam straight to Sungai Nibong, it being the final day of free rides and I wanted to evaluate the service myself, I decided to leave the car at home and take the bus instead.

I walked to the Air Itam market to board the T306 bus. I reached the bus terminal at about 12.20pm. I asked a Rapid Penang employee if T306 was the right bus to Sungai Nibong and when will the next one be arriving. Turns out, the bus just left at 12.15pm and the next one will be in about 30 minutes or so. At 12:46pm, a T306 bus arrived and a swarm of people ran to board the bus. Wow, is this route that well sought after?

Turns out, the old ladies were only there to have a free ride. They didn't bother where the bus was headed to. All that mattered to them was the ride was free and the bus will make a return trip right back to this very bus terminal. They've decided not to get down from the bus until the bus made a round-trip back here. Apparently, they've tried out many routes in the past few days including one all the way to Bukit Mertajam! When asked if they will continue to take the bus the following day when fares will be implemented, the answer was a flat no.

The bus only departed at 12.58pm but it wasn't too long a wait. The route was a very long one with Air Itam, Paya Terubong, Relau, Sungai Ara, Bayan Baru and Bukit Jambul among the areas served by the T306 bus. It took all of one hour for the bus to reach the Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal. I went straight to the Konsortium counter to purchase my ticket and was able to hop on the same bus back to Air Itam but decided to try out a different bus instead.

I decided to try the T304 bus which runs all the way to Gurney Drive to get to my grandparents' place at Green Garden. Although it states in the booklet that the bus will pass through the Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal, the truth is it will only pass by the terminal. I had to walk to a bus stop 10 minutes away to board the bus. They should have a bus stop right opposite the Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal to improve connectivity instead of having to walk a few hundred metres to get to a connecting bus stop.

I didn't have to wait long for the T304 bus to come along - five minutes to be exact. The bus was less packed this time around and most of the passengers were genuine ones instead of old ladies looking for free rides. It took just twenty minutes for me to get to my destination which was the bus stop opposite Convent Green Lane. I had wanted to board another bus, T205 to get back to Air Itam after spending time at my grandparents' house but decided to take up my mom's offer to pick me up after work instead. :P

All in all, I find the service to be very good. Of course the buses were comfortable as they are new, so I will discount that from my evaluation. Although the seats were the plastic ones instead of the cushion ones, they were still comfortable to sit on and made more sense since they were less prone to damage and vandalism. They have surveillance cameras on board but don't think for once you will be able to catch a pickpocket through that camera. It is only meant for the driver to see if it is safe to shut the door.

The routes are very comprehensive with many areas covered but they seem a little odd. You'll get what I mean when you see the routes yourself. You can get to almost anywhere in Penang with their network but the problem is, everytime you hop on their bus, you have to pay a minimum of RM1. If a day or monthly pass is introduced like the one for RapidKL, you will be able to change as many buses as you like for a fixed price thus getting you wherever you want conveniently.

What Penangites are really looking for in public transport is the timely arrival and departure of the buses which is what Rapid Penang is providing at the moment. There must be consistency and reliability, something the old bus companies couldn't offer. The Rapid Penang drivers are not only courteous and helpful, they do not drive like Bus Rempits. It's a stark difference from the rowdy drivers from hell of the other bus companies. Some bus companies are not running a bus transportation service. Instead, they are running a bus rental service. These companies should have their licences revoked for causing great disservice to the Penang population.

These companies were given ample time and opportunities to perform and succeed. It is ironic that now they are complaining when another bus company is introduced and doing those things that they said were impossible before this. To this, I say go fuck yourself. I shouldn't be surprised by their latest outburst considering their constant flip-flops before this.

I'm looking forward to the day when a fixed fare is implemented similar to that of RapidKL. Also, a daily and monthly pass should be introduced as soon as possible. When that comes into play, we will definitely see a great increase in passengers. At the moment, there aren't as many passengers compared to the three days of free rides but the response is still encouraging. They should also introduce student rates even for university students. By encouraging students to take the public transport at a young age, this will instil in them the importance of taking public transport rather than splashing crazy money on a car.

Of course it is still to be seen if the buses will still be clean and well maintained after a few months of operation but I have every confidence they will be. I call upon Penangites to enforce their consumer rights in shunning the old bus companies (especially a certain "Italian Banana" bus company and its minibus sister company "Morning Glory", considered to be the worst of the lot) and choose to ride on Rapid Penang instead. Enough is enough. We have a choice now. It's time to choose.


  1. "old ladies waiting for free rides"...made me laugh...

    i plan to rapid rapid tomorrow.i hope i don't get the double whammy this time!

  2. so how was the ride on Rapid Penang? i'm sure the experience is anytime better than that of the "Italian Banana"...