Mobility and Integrated Development Could Accelerate Kuala Lumpur to One of the World’s Top 20 Cities

11 Dec, 2017

Following up with the release of the Arcadis Sustainable Cites Mobility Index in October, we have talked to Girish M Ramachandran, our Kuala Lumpur City Executive on how he sees the findings of the report align with Kuala Lumpur’s underlying opportunities. With his expertise and involvement with a number of major infrastructure projects in Malaysia, Girish pointed out a number of key initiatives by the government to leverage mobilty within the city that could bring economic opportunities and improve quality of life for its citizens.   

Kuala Lumpur’s bold vision is to be a world-class city that ranks amongst the top 20 most livable cities* in the world by 2020. Consistent with the Malaysian government’s ambition for Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley, there’s a good chance the goal can be reached as the region is showing positive developments due to an amibitous master plan and large-scale investment.

With over two million residents in the six districts of central Kuala Lumpur and over seven million across Greater Kuala Lumpur it is forecasted that the population will double in the next 10-15 years. This presents the city with a great opportunity to develop a city network that enables its residents to move efficiently in ways that drive economic opportunities and enhance the quality of life for its residents. For Kuala Lumpur to realise its vision as a world-class city, it is important that its commercial and financial goals are achieved efficiently and also that development is balanced so that the overall configuration of land use is optimized without compromising societal needs or adversely affecting the existing natural and built environment.

Recently, Arcadis published its Sustainable Cities Mobility Index that provides an indicative ranking of sustainable mobility across 100 global cities. Kuala Lumpur’s overall ranking of 95th provides a benchmark against which to gauge progress in the coming years and assess where strides can be made to accelerate progress. Residents can expect more as Malaysia is a relative newcomer to upgrading its transportation infrastructure, but it's catching up fast with more development under way. Using the Sustainable Cities Mobility Index framework that explores mobility through three pillars of sustainability - social (People), environmental (Planet) and economic (Profit), I have taken a look at the future of Kuala Lumpur’s transport networks.


The Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley Land Public Transport Master Plan is the blueprint for success, and the Land Transportation Commission (SPAD) is the government agency responsible for overseeing its implementation. One of the key goals is to minimise the volume of vehicles on the road networks and enable its residents to use other modes of transport, such as the ambitious Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and the high-speed rail projects currently in development. Their success means encouraging and educating the community as the traditional approach for Malaysians is to prefer to commute by vehicles. One aspect the government can consider is how such infrastructure projects also play a role in transforming the health and well-being of its people. Currently, Kuala Lumpur scored 16% for its bicycle network and this is expected to rise with a number of public and private sector initiatives encouraging people to be more active – including free bikes and construction of cycle paths.

SPAD is also changing mindsets through the use of digital – such as the new journey planner mobile app expected to be launched before the end of this year. The app, which aims to help streamline trips across various stops and multiple modes of transport (from walking, bus and rail) across various operators, will be a game changer in enabling resident’s mobility. Getting the last mile right is also key – the on/off connections with rail links for people living locally. To help address this, the government offers subsidies for bus and taxis and Arcadis is working with the economic planning unit to help develop out-of-the-box and cost-effective solutions.


Malaysia recognizes that it has some way to go in developing its green indicators and increasingly we are seeing a focus on moving from the reliance on fossil fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles – as indicated by the Public Transport Master Plan in its drive to reduce emissions. The commitment from automotive industry over the last two years’ to produce electric vehicles is evident and forecasted adoption coupled with the government’s support is high. One area that is still under exploration is to consider the current electric vehicles infrastructure and whether sufficient charging stations to assure economic viability are available.


In order to drive sustainable economic benefits, Kuala Lumpur must ensure that the development of its transport systems is self-sufficient and can fund their ongoing upkeep. The starting point for Kuala Lumpur’s infrastructure is to explore large scale investment such as public-private partnership models, which have been proven to work for other cities in Asia. For  example, MRT 1 was completed on time and on budget. MRT 2 and 3 are coming soon, as is the high-speed rail link to Singapore.

The government has also assured that the transport networks are affordable for its residents, as the rail corridors developed are not just about transport, but rather they are the backbone of integrated development that creates job opportunities and investment. The elements include real estate, affordable housing (for those who stay locally and for those who commute), education and healthcare facilities, offices, retail outlets, shopping malls, and government facilities.

In my view, these projects lift Kuala Lumpur into the top 20 ranking of cities worldwide are viable. The emphasis on digital and new technologies coupled with a good economic model will enable the city to catch up quickly with other global cities. Kuala Lumpur is one of Southeast Asia’s most livable cities  and has been moving up the worldwide rankings in recent years. The city has a strong vision and a workable plan for sustainable growth. Initiatives ranging from investment in the MRT, high-speed rail, last mile connectivity via buses, taxis, car hailing apps, bicycles and pedestrian walkways are clearly going to be coordinated to succeed in the next two to three years.

*The Economist’s global liveable cities rankings

To find out more about the Sustainable Cities Mobility Indexdownload the full report below and see how Malaysia ranked against the rest of the major cities in the World.

Questions about this article

Girish Ramachandran

Kuala Lumpur City Executive +603 2106 6099 Ask me a question