JB to SG: Tangled in Corridors and Lanes


Have you ever been to shopping malls where the escalators alternate directions? Normally, you’d assume a small displacement is all it takes to go up each floor. But no, you have to walk across a dozen stores to reach the next ‘up’ escalator, then again for the next, and the next. Really, did they think annoying us will make us more willing to stroll into the stores?

A “similar” concept is in place at the Malaysia Johor Bahru (JB) customs, a bridge from Singapore. To get to the adjacent shopping malls, one must begin with an inexplicable detour, reducing displacement to almost zero before a series of ‘down’ escalators bring us to our destination. Same with the return route. The catch: These long corridors are empty. There’s nothing to look at. Over a dozen walks later, I still couldn’t explain it, apart from promoting a healthier lifestyle.

Last weekend, I figured it out. In a nasty way.

It was Sunday night, around 730pm. The peak hours of the week, as Singaporeans flood to return before the new week begins. At the end of the long corridor, our lips parted in shock. The vast landing bay for immigration clearance is swamped with alligators… oh, I mean people. The long corridor will not remain empty for long. Not a great time for discovery, though.

It seems I have been too conditioned by my own experiences with vast empty spaces. It turns out that the eye can be blind to what it doesn’t see. Which is a lot, even of things we think we have seen enough.

JB Customs

At the midpoint of the pre-clearance bay in the JB customs.

The worst is yet to come. 30 minutes was nothing compared to the >90 minutes waiting to board the public bus across the Causeway. The public bus queue began near the clearance points, so I cannot imagine the mess when the buses stopped altogether. Even the corridors were not going to be enough.

The human jam led to the traffic jam, as coaches cannot leave till all their passengers are aboard. When the parking terminals are packed, all these coaches could do was to stop on the drive-through lanes. Oh no. That means parked vehicles will struggle to vacate for other coaches, and incoming buses have no way in.

I walked the length and saw a 170 public bus trapped at the entrance of this bottleneck. It was likely more than 30 minutes before the queue started moving again.

The ideal solution: Add a new lane for public buses. Coaches must wait but buses cannot. If buses cannot move, the entire customs will be choked up however big it is after the expansion years back. But foresight was lacking, and now it’s too late. There is no space for expansion. The only action is to avoid these ultra-peak hours, if possible.

Across the Causeway, we had to wait much longer than usual again. Shouldn’t Singapore be more efficient? No, because it can only receive what JB sends. The jam thus extends from those long corridors to Singapore, even if the Causeway looked empty. Like the haze from Indonesia, not all problems are within Singapore’s control.

Perhaps I shouldn’t complain about excessive walking in shopping malls.

Learning Points
1. The eye can be blind to what it doesn’t see.
2. Infrastructural decisions shape our quality of life.
3. We are not immune to problems across borders.

JB to SG: Tangled in Corridors and Lanes
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