Traffic jams in festive seasons are more horrible than PLUS wants to admit

POSTED BY Yamin Vong ON 04 June 2019


Traffic jams – real or not?

A week ago, it was the Keamataan festival in Sabah and this week it’s Sarawak’s turn to celebrate the Gawai Dayak. Different names but the biggest thing in the year for the Iban, Kadazan, Dusun in Borneo.

Images of a jungle traffic jam viralled on social media saying that the traffic jam was in Sarawak and not to drive during the Gawai time because of drunk drivers.

The truth is that all the jungle traffic jam images originated from Papua Barat, Indonesia. They had nothing to do with Sabah and Sarawak. Certainly, some recreational off-roaders in Peninsular Malaysia were gullible enough to swallow the fake news that the “playground” was somewhere in Sabah and Sarawak.

Check out this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1H58D62dUw

On that note, it’s the Hari Raya season in Peninsular Malaysia where there are plenty of highways and, despite that, genuine fears of a “balik kampung” traffic jam. Why?

PLUS’ MD Datuk Azman Ismail, says that traffic load will increase by 18 per cent in this festive season from 1.7 million a day to 2.0 million a day.

I don’t blame him because this 18 per cent (or thereabouts) statistic was similarly offered by his predecessors. But it is seriously misleading. During festive seasons, traffic patterns are not the same as during normal days.

The 18 per cent statistic is an average over 24 hours and over the whole 900 km stretch of the North-South Highway.

The expected two million cars a day over the festive season will not be evenly distributed over 24 hours and not evenly distributed over the whole 900 km of the North South Highway.

It could be that 700,000 vehicles from Klang Valley heading south converge on the Nilai to Senawang stretch at 11am tomorrow. And another 700,000 from Klang Valley heading north hit the Rawang to Kuala Kangsar stretch at 11 am tomorrow.

That type of herd instinct would easily double or treble or quadruple the normal traffic load over those sections and it will explain why there are so many testimonials of a normal two-hour journey turning into an eight-hour nightmare. The festive season jam has become the stuff of legend.

The PLUS management should know the difference between peak and average traffic load and explain it properly so that highway users will pay more attention to its Travel Time Advisory.

To its credit, PLUS initiated the Travel Time advisory many years ago and it can be even better when Malaysia deploys 5G telecommunications infrastructure in 2021.

With 5G installed on road furniture, fuel stations and drivers firing up their Waze app on 5G smartphones, we could see the traffic building up from within the core – the Klang Valley itself.

Let’s hope that Alibaba founder, Jack Ma will enable PLUS to modernize its Traffic Time Advisory beyond the static table published a week in advance of the festive season.

Last January, after a meeting with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Jack Ma announced that his cloud business in the Alibaba Group would set up a traffic control system harnessing artificial intelligence for Kuala Lumpur, its first outside China.

Alibaba Cloud plans to make live traffic predictions and recommendations to increase traffic efficiency in Kuala Lumpur by crunching data gathered from video footage from DBKL’s ITIS, public transportation systems and mapping apps.

It will partner with state agency Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and DBKL to roll out the technology which will be localised and integrated with 500 inner city cameras and which was supposed to have been rolled out by May last year but of which nothing more has been heard.

On that note, Selamat Hari Raya and forgive me dear reader for mistakes that I have made and hurts that I may have caused you the past year (Maaf Zahir Batin).

Thanks to the 5,000 uniformed men and women helping to keep us safe and driving smoothly on the highways and federal roads during the festive season.