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Monday, 10 July 2017

(The Star) KL traffic in the palm of your hands

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) is currently testing its new app linked to the Integrated Transportation Information System (Itis) system for road users to check on traffic and plan their journey accordingly.

DBKL will test the app called eDrive for two months and is now available on Google Play Store or Apple App Store for download.

A spokesman from DBKL Civil Engineering and Urban Transport Department said the app does not cover the whole of Kuala Lumpur and is focused on roads that are usually congested.

The roads include Jalan Mahameru, Jalan Syed Putra and the Kuala Lumpur-Seremban Highway.

“The app features real-time images of certain roads from 40 stationary cameras and people can use them to see which roads are congested,” he said when met at Menara DBKL 1 recently.

Another feature highlighted on the app is the Parking Guidance Information System for 14 malls including Suria KLCC, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Low Yat Plaza and Maju Junction.

“The app allows people to check before leaving their homes and opt for public transport in the event the number of parking spots are low in the shopping complexes,” he said.

After registering for the app, the user will see a map that shows a 5km radius of Variable Message Sign (VMS) and CCTV view of 40 locations.

The CCTV image refreshes every three minutes.

There will be options of making a report for various issues on the road.

“People can report incidents such as faulty traffic lights, potholes, accidents and floods,” he said.

In 2015, StarMetro reported on DBKL’s plan to incorporate Itis into the traffic and navigation application, Waze.

The then Urban Transportation Department director Dr Leong Siew Mun had said the plan was still being discussed and it would allow Waze users to see real-time traffic images and plan their journey better.

However, this spokesman clarified that the e-Drive app was not a navigation app but for traffic information and a journey planner.

“We have not approached Waze developers on integrating but we are still studying on how we can work together,” he said, adding that the app has an option to link to Waze or any traffic and navigation app installed in the smartphone.

On the cost of developing the eDrive, the spokesman said it cost RM2.9mil and took a year to complete.

For Itis, the spokesman said the cost of maintaining and renting the cameras and CCTVs was RM198mil for six years and the appointed contractor was VADS Lyfe (formerly known as GTC Global Sdn Bhd).

According to its website, VADS Lyfe is a “smart services solutions provider with a focus on township development and the real estate industry. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM).”

What is Itis?

Many will know that Itis is primarily a traffic surveillance system.

Its system component is integrated with 140 VMS and 1,000 CCTVs.

The length of roadways covered by Itis is about 200km.

It was launched in 2002 and has cost a whopping RM565mil to-date.

Although Itis is in working condition 15 years on, the argument remains as to the necessity of spending millions on such a system at a time when traffic and navigation applications for smartphones are free.

StarMetro recently visited the Transport Management Centre in Bukit Jalil where there are a few surveillance rooms with several monitors connected to CCTV cameras showing live traffic conditions in Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas.

Apart from traffic surveillance, there were several other functions that the system manages.

For instance, Itis operators are able to control traffic lights from the centre.

With a few clicks of a mouse, operators can keep a traffic light on green for a longer period of time to clear a congested road. The maximum time for such a move is three minutes.

The public can call the centre to complain of traffic lights being red for too long and causing a congestion.

The operator can verify the information from the centre using the CCTV cameras and proceed to help clear the traffic.

The system can also alert operators of any accident to facilitate quick response.

During StarMetro’s visit, an accident involving a motorcycle and a car occurred on Jalan Kuching and the operators quickly alerted the police.

Operators explained that they are able to keep the video recordings of the accidents in case of disputes when a police report is lodged.

There was also an incident of illegal parking along the highly-congested Jalan Masjid India and operators could use the speaker attached to some of the cameras to alert motorists to remove their cars.

There are about 200 speakers attached with the CCTV cameras.

Since there were not much movement, the operator alerted DBKL enforcement officers.

Within minutes, two officers were seen on the live image asking motorists to remove their cars before creating a temporary barricade.

There was also a room for the traffic police at the TMC to monitor the roads.

Two police officers are posted there for two shifts – 6am to 2pm and 2pm to 9pm.

The cops explained that other than monitoring traffic conditions, they also had a walkie-talkie to communicate with the Jalan Tun H.S. Lee police station and another for DBKL.

One of them said the system assisted in spotting crimes as well and recalled an incident last year where they got word from the police station that a car was stolen from Jalan Kuching.

With the help of Itis, officers were able to trace the car on the move.

The culprit was eventually caught on the Kuala Lumpur-Seremban Highway and the car was retrieved.

The officers added that with Itis, they can provide the recordings of accidents and crimes such as theft to the police for investigation as well as provide quicker response to such incidents.