Jalan TAR closure: ‘Authorities need viable diversion plan’

The closure of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (TAR) to all vehicles on Sundays could work in the interest of pedestrians and local businesses, provided the authorities have a viable traffic diversion plan, say experts.

Traffic engineering specialist Dr Law Teik Hua said Google data on the roads near the popular shopping district showed that they were usually full of traffic on weekends.

He said the roads near the 500m stretch that was slated to be closed would usually be marked with orange or red lines on online maps, indicating an issue of medium or heavy traffic delays at feeder and exit roads.

“It rarely turns green (indicating no delays in travel time).

“While the goals of converting urban roads to pedestrian walkways to increase pedestrian safety and boost local businesses are generally positive, there are several considerations that should be made when implementing this pedestrian walk zone, particularly the effects on nearby and local traffic.”

He said another issue was the absence of adequate parking spots near the closed-off area.

“People should be properly directed to the location. Otherwise, it is likely that people will illegally park nearby, which will have an impact on traffic.

“To maintain pedestrian safety, proper traffic enforcement must be implemented with regard to motorcycles and cyclists approaching the area,” said the Universiti Putra Malaysia associate professor.

He said the authorities must also increase the availability of public transport, particularly buses, to draw more people to the area.

“A metropolis must have bus lane facilities to ensure public mobility. In the long run, Kuala Lumpur City Hall has to figure out how to transition from motorised vehicle traffic to non-motorised oriented traffic. This will improve commercial activity, road safety and traffic congestion, among other benefits.”

He said City Hall had to conduct a traffic impact assessment survey to assess the effects of the project on local traffic.

“They should use this as a pilot project and expand it across the city.”

In 2020, City Hall was urged to go “all the way” with its grand plan to close off at least 10 roads in the city to cars by 2025.

City Mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan was quoted as saying that City Hall planned to cordon off several stretches in Bangsar, Bukit Bintang and Brickfields to make them more pedestrian-friendly and reduce carbon emissions.

He said City Hall aimed to emulate the examples set by semi-pedestrian streets in Singapore, such as Arab Street and Haji Lane, as well as some parts
of London, such as Portobello Road.

Town planner Md Nazri Mohd Nordin said City Hall, after suspending the trial run for Jalan TAR in 2019 due to pressure from traders, should have a clearer idea of how to make the system foolproof.

He said road closures should be accompanied by efforts to generate the economy in affected areas.

“City Hall has to think of how to boost the frequency of public use of the area by activating the streets and buildings with dynamic programmes and events.

“Building activities in the areas go hand in hand with efforts to rezone and reorganise the street,” he said.

“What’s important is for the authorities to show that this can work. We need to show that when streets are closed, more people will come and businesses will grow.”

He said the plan had to be supported by good accessibility and connectivity via a good transport system, with amenities that cater to the able-bodied, as well as those with special needs.

The former president of the Malaysian Institute of Planners said the pavements should be made more pedestrian-friendly to allow families to walk together.

He said closures of busy business districts in major cities around the world, such as in London, Dublin, Brussels and Paris, were initially received negatively, only to emerge bigger and better after a while.

“Once the benefits of having the roads closed begin to show, only then the plan can move forward.”

Nazri said closer to home, the success of the initiative to turn popular Kuala Lumpur stretches car-free on Sunday mornings was an indication of an effective way to rejuvenate the city.

NST polls on Twitter and Instagram found that 50.46 per cent (88.28) were in favour of the closure.

Another 41.12 per cent (71.96) opposed the move and 0.08 per cent (14.75) voted “maybe”, indicating indecision.


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