How to Optimize Your Light Rail Transit (LRT) Ride in Malaysia

Update 24th July 2016:  The Kelana Jaya LRT extension officially opened on 30th June 2016 — so parts of the article below are no longer relevant. If you’re happy to continue reading, I think you’ll still learn something though…

 

I love trains.

I think they’re marvelous inventions. Train stations make perfect locations for breakups, wedding shoots, and cheesy 80s music videos.

But trains are also likely the most efficient way of carrying large numbers of people. Statistically they might be more dangerous than airplanes, but have you ever heard of someone who’s afraid to travel by train?

Anyway, I’m a long-time train user. Specifically the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in Kuala Lumpur. Up until three weeks ago, I used to take it to work in the Kuala Lumpur city center. That’s nine years of daily LRT-riding experience.

This is what I’ve learned about optimizing your LRT ride. How do you get the cheapest and most comfortable ride?

For the purpose of this article, I’ll focus on the Kelana Jaya (formerly known as Putra LRT) Line. If anyone has tips on how to optimize the KTM Komuter or Ampang (formerly known as Star LRT) Line, I’d love to hear them!

 

1. Cost

Cost used to be easy. Touch n’ Go cost the same as a cash ticket. And if you used the LRT very often, a monthly pass might be worthwhile.

It used to cost me RM 2.40 per way from Kelana Jaya to KLCC. That’s RM 4.80 per day, and RM 105.60 per month (assuming 22 working days). Since the monthly pass was only RM 100 (unlimited rides on trains) — it made sense to get a monthly pass.

But of course… Rapid KL had to change their fares in December 2015. Now it’s a lot more complicated and expensive.

Fares effective December 2015

There used to be two pricing schemes (monthly pass vs everything else), but now there are four. Which are, in order of cheapest to most expensive:

  1. MyRapid Smart 30 Monthly
  2. MyRapid Smart 7 Weekly
  3. Cashless (either MyRapid or Touch n’ Go)
  4. Token (cash)

Rapid KL also now charges a “subscription fee” every time you activate the Smart 30 Monthly or Smart 7 Weekly package. So whether it saves you money or not depends on how many days you use the LRT. The fees are as below:

Table showing MyRapid card pricing

My advice is:

1. Never use tokens as they’re the most expensive.

2. Get a MyRapid card for RM 10. You’ll need this card to activate either the Smart 30 or Smart 7 packages. (You can use good old Touch n’ Go for cashless transactions, but you can’t activate the Smart 30 or Smart 7 packages using Touch n’ Go).

3. If you’re going to be traveling a route very often (say more than 20 days a month), activate Smart 30 Monthly.

For example, I used to travel from Kelana Jaya to Ampang Park. It cost me RM 3.30 using Smart 30. It would cost me RM 3.70 using the same card without Smart 30.

Total price using Smart 30
= (RM 3.30 x 2 ways x 20 days)
= RM 132

Total price using MyRapid without Smart 30
= RM 3.70 x 2 ways x 20 days
= RM 148

However, remember it costs RM 10 to activate Smart 30 every month. So total price using Smart 30 is actually RM 142 vs RM 148 (without Smart 30). You still save a few Ringgit.

4. If you’re not going to be traveling very often, consider using the MyRapid card by itself (without activating anything). You could save maybe RM 0.30 a week by activating MyRapid 7 Weekly, but I don’t think that’s worth the trouble.

 

2. 4-Coach Trains vs 2-Coach Trains

Now that we’ve got cost out of the way, let’s talk about the next most important thing: comfort. And in discussing comfort, I’m gonna assume two things:

  1. You prefer sitting instead of standing
  2. You don’t like grinding strangers

The Kelana Jaya line has two types of trains: 4-coach trains and 2-coach trains. Each coach is designed for 32 sitting passengers and 204 standing passengers.

Diagram of Kelana Jaya LRTpic via the excellent MyRapid

So statistically, your chance of sitting down is less than 16%. But since you’re a hustler, here’s how you’ll always get a seat.

The first thing is to always wait for the 4-coach trains. At peak hours, a new train arrives every 3 minutes. So even if you’re unlucky enough to get two 2-coach trains in a row, if you wait 10 minutes — you’ll get a 4-coach train.

Double the capacity, and double the number of seats. Plus if you wait — everyone else will get on first, and you’ll be first in line when the next train comes. Elbow anyone who isn’t queuing up for me.

BTW, the newer 4-coach trains are colder than the 2-coach trains. And the coldest seat is the third seat (middle) from the end. There, you’ll get the air-con directly blowing on you.

p.s. Official peak hours for the LRT are 7-9 am and 5-7 pm.

 

3. The Nature of LRT Stations

Not all stations are created equally for seat hunters.

If you take the LRT from the end stations: Kelana Jaya (until 30th June 2016) and Gombak — you’ll always have near-empty trains to look for seats.

If you stay somewhere near the end, you can take the train towards the end — wait till everyone gets off, then get a seat.

But it gets harder the closer you get to the city.

I wish I had statistics, but here’s my personal estimate on the seat-friendliness of LRT stations:

Diagram of LRT Stations naturePic modified from klsentral.org

 

4. The Psychology of Malaysian Train users

But what if you’re in a rush, stay far from the end, and can’t wait for the next train? What if you get on and the other hustlers fill up the seats quickly? Here’s what to do…

There are two laws that govern the psychology of Malaysian train users:

  1. The law of public transport inertia — A static person will likely remain static. A mobile person will likely continue moving.
  2. The law of personal gravitational space — Even in the most packed situation, people will try to keep some space between themselves and the next person.

Using this information helps us get comfortable:

1. The first law tells us that once people get “settled” in their positions in the LRT (whether standing or sitting), they’re less likely to move. So even if you don’t get a seat at first, wait till someone gets up and exits the train. When this happens:

a. The people who are already in the train usually don’t move from their current positions.

b. Who you’ll compete against are people who are just entering the LRT. Since they’re already moving, they’ll be looking for an empty seat. I’m not one to fight for seats, especially against women — so I wait for a certain kind of LRT station to arrive: one where a lot of people get off, and less people get on.

This is usually your best bet for a mid-journey seat.

2. OK fine — sometimes everything really goes wrong and you still can’t get a seat. But where should you stand to be most comfortable? Here’s my recommendation:

a. If you like going to Zouk, any area around the middle and doors is where your ass is gonna get grinded.

b. My pick is to stand in the middle of the aisle between seating areas. There, the “personal gravitational space” effect is highest. People always try to keep personal space between themselves and others. The further away you get from the grinding zone, the more space you get.

Diagram of where to stand in LRTfor a 2-coach train, (seats in blue)

An additional bonus is that since you’re so near the seats — if someone gets up, you’re in pole position.

 

5. Always Sit Beside a Lady

I’m not suggesting this because I’m a perv who likes to rub shoulders with random women on the LRT.

I’m saying this because on the older trains, the standard seats are only about 16.5 inches wide. On the newer trains, the standard seats are a bit wider — almost 17″ wide.

Picture showing standard LRT seatYes, I got some weird looks as I was doing this

I consider myself slim, but even my shoulders are already 19″ wide. Put four guys in a row on the seats, and everyone feels like sardines in a can.

Considering that most women are probably slimmer than me, and 50% of men are probably bigger than me — it helps everyone be more comfortable if you always choose a seat next to a lady.

Ladies smell better too.

 

6. The End is Your Friend

If you don’t remember anything else from this article, remember this one: the end of the train is where the hustlers hang out. And it’s where you get the best of the LRT experience:

1. Newbies don’t realize that there are 4-coach trains. So they’ll always wander aimlessly towards the middle of the train station. I’ve nothing against newbies, but most haven’t fully understood LRT culture yet — so it’s annoying if they do things like not queue up.

2. The end of the train has an extra “storage area” where you can put your things. Actually, this is where the train manual controls are. But unless a Rapid KL guy gets on and uses this console, it usually makes a convenient shelf.

Picture showing LRT end shelfI don’t recommend you do this though

3. There’s a pretty nice view too. Like a poor man’s roller coaster ride.

4. The best seats in the house are at the end. Remember how standard seats are only between 16.5″ – 17″? The seats at the end have extra room, and even a small gap to park your champagne glass. Welcome to first class!

Picture showing LRT first class seats19″ — Wider than a Malaysia Airlines Economy Seat

There are several less-obvious “premium economy 17.5” seats too.

And since you’ve been so kind to read all the way to the end — here’s my final gift for you: the poor man’s SeatGuru for the LRT…

Diagram of where to sit in the LRT4-coach train a.k.a. Bombardier Innovia ART 200

Happy travels; and if a pregnant lady comes near you — please ignore everything I just said and give her your seat.

 

 

Pic at Pexels.

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28 comments

  • Question: Are there differences in rates between the MyRapid 30 Monthly vs using TnG? Seems like no, and using 30 Monthly requires a RM10 monthly subscription, which means extra compared to TnG.

    I’m going back to work in KL, so am looking for transport options. 🙂 Thanks in advance!

    • Hey Deric,

      Yes — there are price differences between MyRapid 30 Monthly vs normal Touch n Go. I can’t find the exact pricing on MyRapid’s website right now (they really should update the pricing info), but if you’re a frequent traveler — it’s likely MyRapid 30 Monthly will save you a few bucks vs normal Touch n Go.

  • Stingy my man, your article on the LRT is informative and brilliant. Keep up the good work. I love trains too and would always find the slightest excuse to board one, much to the displeasure of my wife.

    I live almost at the other end of the Kelana line and at late times I am the last person in the empty train. Not enough stuff to write horror stories yet.

    • Thanks Darma,

      Appreciate your kind words. I’ve been in the last train a few times myself; coming out of pitch black LRT stations. Quite scary… 😐

  • Love the way you wrote the article! Made me chuckle a few times. I was searching for more information on the “cashless” ticketing and it brought me here. Very entertaining indeed and I’ve got the info I needed 🙂 Keep up the great work!

  • Good article! It demystified the seemingly complex local transport facility at KL! For short trips MyRapid card is the way to go…

    • Thanks Aravind! The LRT system has now been expanded, so some parts of the article aren’t applicable anymore, but hope it still helped you!

  • I dont understand the fare structure of LRT…for example, as senior citizen, I pay RM1.80 for a ride from SS18 to KLCC. and yet from SS18 to KL Masjid Jamek, it is RM2.00, and if I take a ride from Masjid Jamek to KLCC it is RM0.90. Again from KL Sentral to SS18 it is RM2.10. It is all so confusing… Also, would it be any cheaper if I use senior citizen discount card..? Tanx..

  • A very good and detail info. I enjoyed reading it and will read more of your stuff. Keep it up.

  • it’s worst for the first few days after upgraded the system. This morning ok already and i able to get a seat in sri petaling line lol… wish they can improve it

    • Yeah… I’ve been hearing bad things about their new system. Hopefully they can continue to improve it though!

    • Thanks afiqah,

      Hope you’ll come back for more, and do let me know what kind of topics you’d like me to write about!

  • Very impressive!Great content and so detailed.I highly appreciate your effort and sense of humor, especially the seat measuring part!I’d love to see more!

  • I have a few tips to share as well on the ergonomics of the LRT

    1) If you are first in line and you want to get off the next station, consider letting everyone behind you get on the LRT first. This guarantees that you won’t need to grind through people to get off your next stop

    2) As I am a stationary person often, I always anticipate the 2 coach trains and wait at 1 end of the coach. This way, you always get to get on the LRT even if there is a 2 coach or 4 coach LRT coming.

    3) Try to position yourself at the exit of the LRT nearest to the staircase of the of your LRT station. This will significantly reduce the queue at the LRT exit as travel time is reduced and you won’t have to wade yourself through the traffic at the exit.

    4) Also queuing gets messy especially during peek hours, as people normally only take out their LRT passes at the exit and not on the way to the exit

    Thanks!

  • As someone who takes the LRT from KJ or Taman Jaya to KLCC every day, I use the Smart 30.

    Thanks for the post; it is detailed and funny at the same time!

  • As an engineer, I have excel spreadsheet for almost everything. From KJ – klcc, get Smart 30 if you are using the train more than 17 days, else just use T&G/Myrapid.

    However if you are travelling Asia jaya – klcc, a Smart 30 is only worth it if you use it for more than 25days. And if you are travelling Bangsar-klcc, just stick to T&G/Myrapid.

    Smart 7 is not the cheapest option in all 3 scenarios above. But I used it recently when I took 1week off for CNY and 4days off 2weeks aft that. So if you travel every other week, do consider Smart 7 but the saving vs T&G is minimal, if any

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