According to an expert, the main reason why traffic congestion is on the rise Is because there are more cars on the road than the Malaysian population, but former transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said he was certain that the number of vehicles on public roads was not more than the population.
Many motorists have recently voiced out that there is an acute traffic congestion problem in the country. There seem to be traffic jams everywhere you go, which has made weekday commuting a daily nightmare and weekend travel a living hell.
It has been reported that traffic congestion is now worse than before the Covid-19 pandemic, especially with more workers returning to the office and students going back to school.
While some say the problem is caused by the delay in building more public transport infrastructure and others blaming it on irresponsible motorists who just seem to park their vehicles anywhere, causing congestion – there’s just no end to theories on why traffic congestion is on the rise.
Well, one plausible theory so far comes from road safety expert Professor Dr Kulanthayan K.C. Mani of Universiti Putra Malaysia, who mentioned to the New Straits Times that the worsening traffic congestion is caused by the rising number of vehicles on the road, which has now overtaken the Malaysian human population.
More cars than humans in Malaysia!
According to Profesor Kulanthayan, there were 33.3 million registered vehicles nationwide last year, which overtook the human population, which stood at 32.6 million.
Of the 33.3 million registered vehicles, up to 47.3% were cars; 46.6% were motorcycles, while 4.7% were goods vehicles. The rest were buses, taxis, self-drive car rentals and others.
With the vehicle population growing rapidly compared to the human population, it is no wonder that traffic congestion is getting worse nationwide, he said to the New Straits Times.
Dr Kulanthayan said his observation of the booming vehicle registration over the past few years until 2021 led him to believe that it was the prime contributor to the congestion in most parts of the country.
“What is surprising here is that the vehicle population in 2019 was 31.2 million. Subsequently, it increased by one million every year. In 2021, it was registered at 33.3 million.”
“For the first time ever, in 2021, the trend of vehicle population outpaced the human population. Over all these years, it has always been the reverse.”
“The vehicle population now is high. If this trend continues yearly where vehicles are rising to the tune of one million, then we will face even more horrendous traffic congestion,” he told the New Straits Times.
He also said, “It was common for traffic to be clogged during festivities and peak hours, and then it returns to normal. But looking at the situation now, it is beyond that.”
But not everyone agrees with the expert’s assessment
According to FMT, former transport minister Liow Tiong Lai has come out and said that he was certain that the number of vehicles on public roads was not more than the population.
“It is not possible that the number of vehicles is more than the population of Malaysia,” he told FMT.
The reason he believes that the assessment is inaccurate is because the number that was picked out by the expert was an accumulation of registered vehicles since the British colonial days.
The news portal quoted Road Transport Department (JPJ) director-general Datuk Zailani Hashim, saying that the department had handled 33.05 million vehicles in the past 75 years since it was incorporated as Registrar and Inspector of Motor Vehicles.
Liow called for the government to put the facts right and he suggests that a better picture could be ascertained by using the latest road tax renewal records to confirm the numbers.
If it’s true, why are so many people buying cars?
Professor Kulanthayan said one of the possible reasons for the high number of vehicles was the government’s introduction of the automotive sales and services tax (SST) exemption in June 2020 as part of the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) stimulus package.
While he lauded such a move to assist the automotive industry, which was adversely affected due to the travel ban to curb the Covid-19 spread, Dr Kulanthayan said such sweet deals enticed the people to buy vehicles that they may have not needed.
He said people did not want to miss the irresistible offer, and some may have planted the idea to others to upgrade to new cars.
“There could have been graduates who had no intention of buying cars, but they did it because of peer pressure or persuasion from friends and family because they can save money with the tax exemption.”
“Now, we are seeing even more vehicles on the road, and this could contribute to traffic jams. That is why you see this happening nationwide, not just in the Klang Valley.
Building more roads is not the answer!
Professor Kulanthayan said building more roads is not the answer. He urged the government to refrain from building more highways or adding more lanes to the existing roads because it would not solve traffic congestion because of the supply-attract-demand theory, which is that when there are more roads, people will buy more cars.
Increasing more lanes on the road will only make things worse, as traffic congestion usually happens at bottlenecks areas where vehicles reduce speed to merge, and that subsequently slows down the flow.
“That is not the right method. I do not recommend building more highways as we already have many of them. The government should be managing the demand instead.”