As a young student at Universiti Sains Malaysia, on a few occasions, I had to take the bus from Pudu Raya terminal in Kuala Lumpur to Penang. At the terminal, travel-worn commuters had to stomach choking exhaust fumes, brave filthy corridors and carefully navigate poorly lit, steep stairways to get to their respective platforms where smoke-belching buses sometimes arrived on time.
So when we ran the lab on Urban Public Transport in 2010, we were determined to transform the Pudu Raya terminal. At the Open day with the public, during my briefing, I even referred to the Pudu Raya terminal as “hell on earth” and that was why we wanted to transform it.
Our Prime Minister approved the lab recommendation and it was implemented.
Early this year, I decided to visit Pudu Raya again. I dropped in unannounced so I could observe the goings-on at the terminal without the standard ‘guided tour’. I had heard a lot about the improvements but wanted to test the user experience from an accessibility and service quality standpoint.
Getting there was seamless. My assistant and I boarded the Kelana Jaya Line LRT at KL Sentral and alighted at Masjid Jamek station where I switched to the Ampang Line, getting off at Plaza Rakyat, just a stop away.
A brisk 5-minute walk later we arrived at Pudu Raya. The place was unrecognisable.
As a result of the National Blue Ocean strategy, the concept of Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) was mooted a few years later and Pudu Sentral houses the Kuala Lumpur Urban Transformation Centre (UTC).
The UTC is part of the government’s transformation drive under the National Blue Ocean Strategy to build effective synergies between agencies, ministries, and different levels of government. Today there are six other UTCs – in Melaka, Perak, Pahang, Kedah, Sabah and Sarawak serving up to 3,000 people daily.
Led by the Ministry of Finance, this is indeed a prime example of how national transformation can add value to directly benefit the rakyat.
On top of the 39 government departments and commercial offices at the Kuala Lumpur UTC, there are also scores of private businesses – Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia, Kedai Kain 1Malaysia and the country’s first Kedai Buku 1Malaysia. The UTC even has a gym, futsal court and a rock climbing wall for youths looking for clean and healthy fun.
For someone who knew what it was like before, the KL UTC centre is an impressive achievement. As expected, the place was bustling with folks running errands. But amidst the hustle and bustle, everything appeared to be operating in a systematic and orderly fashion. Clean and clear structures were in place making it conducive for civil servants to do a good job managing the demands made on them.
I stopped to talk to a Mr Wong from Bandar Tun Razak, who had just completed registering his second business. It had taken him more than three working days to register his business the first time seven years ago.
As a Klang Valley dweller myself, I could empathise with his grouses of traffic and parking issues. But this time round, it was all done within a day, and Wong also managed to squeeze in some time to renew his passport.
Indeed, UTCs are designed as one-stop centers for a range of government and private sector services. It is the one place you can go to get things done under one roof – applying for identity cards; renewing driving licenses, road tax and insurances; registering vehicles; renewing, filing and paying income tax; registering of GST to getting healthcare and dental treatment. There are also banks, postal and courier services plus zakat collection centers.
Around 9.6 million visitors have been using services at the UTC since its launch in 2012. I encourage sceptics and if you’re a doubting Thomas, to drop in and to see for yourself changes that have taken place in Puduraya.
Government has made leaps in executing improvements by being cognizant of public demands and collaborating as a whole to deliver quality services to people.
Pudu Raya of my youth, thank goodness, is a thing of the past.