Size does matter

Would using a Bas Mini work? It might just

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ONCE upon a time, for anyone who just started work particularly in the 70s right up to the 90s, the one cost-effective way to get to work would be that adventurous ride on a Bas Mini.

In the earlier days, it came in various colours — until some genius decided that pink should be the most desired hue for all the small buses that plied the Klang Valley.

The deal was simple and straightforward. All you need to do is memorise the number of each bus and which route it travelled.

For instance, if you’re staying around section 14 in Petaling Jaya and working in Bangsar, the bus you should be on could either be 28, 38 and 39.

From Bangsar to Bukit Bintang, you would have to hop on Bas Mini number 28, 33, or 38 and drop off at Klang Bus Stand, before crossing to Jalan Sultan where you could switch to Bas Sri Jaya that would take you all the way to your destination.

The Bas Mini fare was only 50 sen. All you had to sacrifice was your breathing space.

Imagine cramped in a small space, while the conductor screamed his “request” for you to move as far back as possible.

Ke dapur! Ke dapur! (to the back! to the back!).”

Really, you had no choice but to follow the conductor’s instructions.

Once you’re at the back, getting off is yet another experience. That would be the time that you’d regret if you did not stick to your diet.

The experience would be even more memorable if it rained, especially if the windows were not working. Some of the more creative (and cheap) bus operators would just place a piece of wood to hold the window in place, but more often than not, a Bas Mini ride could end up very wet, and yes, extremely sweaty and smelly.

Since it was also smaller, it was easier for the drivers to manoeuvre the Bas Mini along the streets of Kuala Lumpur (KL). Roller coaster rides?

Well, a trip on the mini bus might be more eventful than that.

When the service was introduced in Shah Alam in the 80s, the Bas Mini was the most appreciated sight for Institut Teknologi Mara students who stayed outside the campus. The service was cheap, and most importantly, it would get you to class on time.

The service was halted in the 90s when the administration decided that it was better to integrate the public transport system using better looking (and air-conditioned) buses.

By then, commuters had also moved on to other modes of transportation including the light rapid transit (LRT), as well as the monorail.

Well and good, but somehow, those living in suburban areas, housing estates and townships, seemed to have been deprived of a service that made their lives easier.

For instance, if you’re staying in one of the many housing estates in Cheras, you might have to settle for the more expensive taxis or one of the e-hailing services to get to the nearby supermarket or shops within your area.

At the same time, there is still the nagging first and last mile issue for those who prefer to take the trains (mass rapid transit, LRT, or Komuter).

The bigger buses are available, but the frequencies are just too unpredictable, and could not reach deeper into residential areas with smaller roads.

Well, that might just change soon.

On Sept 1, the 8m Bas Mini reappeared for the first time along Rapid KL’s T300 route between Ampang Point and Bukit Indah.

As of noon that day, a total of 21 trips were made from 5.30am, with three buses in operation, ferrying about 200 commuters. The number of passengers might increase now as schools reopen and city folks return to work after a long weekend celebrating Merdeka Day and Maal Hijrah.

The operator, Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, said in a statement that the Bas Mini was introduced as part of its data gathering initiative on the suitability of the smaller vehicle on connecting routes between the city and the outskirts.

Apparently, the project is expected to be carried out over three months to improve the journey for commuters by encouraging more people to use public transport.

Prior to this, two 12m buses were used for the 11km route with a daily and monthly average of 800 and 24,000 passengers respectively. The daily bus service ends at 11.40pm.

Now, while the more cynical quarters would just rant about how it wouldn’t work, we do have three months to see if the service could really make things better and more convenient for the people.

Already, many naysayers are sharing their thoughts on various social media platforms that the project is a symbol of the country “regressing” and not really “progressing”.

“Welcome back to the old age of sweat and smell”, was among the sharp comments.

Well, the good news is the 8m buses are fully air-conditioned. The 80 sen ride utilises the cashless payment method like many other transactions we are used to by now.

Would it work? It might just. With better looking buses, one could also see the new service being introduced in the higher-end areas that were not too kind towards the Bas Mini of yesteryears.

As long as we are not forced to move too much to the back, that is…

Zainal Alam Kadir is the executive editor of The Malaysian Reserve.