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Malaysians like to share many things, from opinions to unwanted advice, but they apparently don’t like sharing their car’s cabin space with others in the daily commute to work, as revealed by a survey undertaken by Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS), a Kuala Lumpur-based behavioural and social science research firm.
Its latest study, as picked up by news publications like The Star, reveals that Klang Valley folk don’t just prefer to drive to work instead of using public transport, they don’t like company in the car.
Over a three-day field survey carried out from October 23 to 25, in which nearly 4,700 vehicles were surveyed between 8.00 am to 9.10 am in different places around the Klang Valley, the firm found that 87.3% of vehicles were single occupancy. This, the survey said, was the highest in the world for a single-commuter category.
Only 11.6% of vehicles had one passenger on board, and only 0.9% had two other passengers on board during the sampling period. Researchers, who were stationed in Ampang, Seri Kembangan, Sungai Buloh and Petaling Jaya at locations near linked residential areas, a toll plaza and places of work, sampled some respondents.
Cent-GPS said it was made clear by respondents that many prefer to drive alone because of comfort, spending the morning drive alone to gather their thoughts, listen to their favourite podcasts or even favourite music. “They would prefer to do this without having to layan (interact) with a colleague passenger,” it said in a press release.
Drivers also cited that public transport still remained difficult, making a drive easier. Some said that the cost of parking at an LRT or MRT station was the same as parking at work. A few respondents said that when they did arrange for carpooling arrangements, their colleagues would often wake up late, making the driver late for work as well.
The Cent-GPS report added that the affordability of fuel and toll among single-driver commuters was the reason for the large percentage of single-occupancy vehicles.
“Frankly, the fairly affordable cost of fuel and toll in Malaysia is not a big enough incentive to urge people to seek a carpooling or public transportation option. The cost of fuel and sitting through traffic is just not as big as the cost of having to sit and listen to your colleague complain about the boss,” it said.
“Yet, if the government were to increase the cost of toll and fuel, the most affected would be the B40 group, making driving to work alone a luxury afforded by the rich,” the firm added.
Comparatively, other countries have started to see a decreasing number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road, with many opting for public transport and carpooling. According to Cent-GPS, the United States’ nationwide average of single-driver commuter was recorded at 66%, while the remaining 34% carpooled.
In Spain, around 56% made the commute alone by driving, while 44% carpooled or used public transport, and in Belgium, the number of single-driver commuters has been declining at a rate of 5% a year to what is now believed to be only around 30% of road users, the report added.
Despite the high percentage of single-occupancy vehicles, Cent-GPS said policymakers should not persist with the pursuit of abolishing tolls or continuing fuel subsidies.
“Our policymakers should not highlight the effect of eradicating tolls or continued fuel subsidies. Even the rhetoric of reducing tolls implies that tolls serve as a back-stepping function in our society. This is not true. Tolls need to be seen as a function in a developing country that can begin to regulate and reduce the number of cars on the road.”
“As we head towards a decade where climate change will determine our livelihoods, these measures, albeit painful and unpopular, need to be taken for the greater good, for the cleanliness of our children’s future,” it said.
What do you think of the survey results? Do you share the same sentiments as respondents, and prefer to make the daily journey to work in your car, alone? Share your views on the matter in the comments section below.