Saturday, January 19, 2019

Penang Public Transport System?

FMT - 2 ways to reduce cars on roads but which will Penangites prefer?: by Aaron Lim, a FMT reader

A key discussion in the planning of public mobility is on how to reduce the number of cars on the roads. Generally, there are only two ways to do that.

The first way is through strict enforcement of policies that make private car ownership and usage very burdensome.

For example, the government can impose a high tax to own or use a car, limit the number of cars per household, and reduce road space for car usage by either closing the roads or designate them for public transport vehicles like buses or trams.

This method is very effective in the short run as it can be done within a short period of time, at very low cost.

The social impact, however, is tremendous. Car users are threatened with severe penalties and this causes much inconvenience.

Stubborn motorists will continue to use their cars despite the reduced road space. This will only increase congestion and worsen the driving and commuting experience.

Taking away road space to allow public transport affects the travelling time of drivers. Less obstinate motorists will have no choice but to give up their private cars reluctantly.

This method is easy to be implemented but very draconian in approach. It is therefore only effective in the short run as protests caused by this method are likely to overturn transport policies.

The recent recommendation by the representative of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy to implement the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Penang, together with road charges, is very much like this method.

Let's look at some methods which the author Aaron Lim proposed, namely:

(1) government can impose a high tax to own or use a car

Will that be only in Penang or throughout Malaysia? Won't work if only in Penang State as Malaysia is full of 'smart alecs' who will register their cars in Perak, Kedah and Perlis etc, wakakaka.

I believe the Sing government uses this method where in that Island it costs the world to buy a car.

But the Penang State government can impose Penang 'area tolls' (busy spots like Penang CBD etc) for cars carrying less than 3 people in vehicle, where otherwise a toll will be levied - again it's another Sing practice. 

(2) limit the number of cars per household

I am not sure how the State government can enforce this policy/rule? Not very practical.

Nor will it be fair as a household may be of various adults with various types of occupations in different locations which require separate work travelling arrangements. Mum may require her own car to send children to school etc.

I recall there was one country in Europe aeons ago, where the road policy for some busy sectors of city or regions was to restrict cars on certain dates/days to ONLY those registered with 'odd' or 'even' (ending) numbers.

Eg. thus a car with registration PODAH12155 may only travel on Penang roads on Mon, Wed, etc or on 'odd' days of calendar eg. February 01, 03, 05 etc whilst another car with registration PARIA1196X may ONLY be used on road on February 02, 04, 06 etc

Enforcement is VITAL and must be strong, swift and merciless, though special allowances must be instituted for vehicles intending to travel inter-state (wakakaka, BS word of mouth by vehicle-owners is NOT to be accepted).

(3) reduce road space for car usage by either closing the roads or designate them for public transport vehicles like buses or trams.

Won't this force insistent stubborn car users into more congested 'fewer' roads?

Watch out for reckless violaters or road-rage drivers.

The second way is to provide a less disruptive public transport service as an alternative to private car usage.

For examples, elevated forms of public transport that do not take up much road space, and with the least disruption, provide an inviting condition for car users to gradually switch to public transport.

Instead of enforcing burdensome policies, this method allows people to slowly cultivate a preference for public transport.

This method, however, requires longer preparation time and higher cost. The Penang Transport Master Plan, with the elevated LRT, is one such example.

Based on the comparison above, which way do you think is more sustainable and suitable to be implemented in Penang?

Availability of state public transport and its adequateness in Penang is a VITAL part, but only one part of the solution. In other words, don't introduce pompous hairbrained schemes UNTIL and UNLESS alternative and adequate public transportation is available as a viable alternative.

The other part makes me recall what I read of a Hong Kong expert on its Mass Transit System (MTS) advising us in a recent forum.

Hong Kong has been super successful with the MTS because the people there don't own cars in the numbers that we do, hence their MTS including buses, taxis, etc are invariably successful.

That expert said in Penang and Malaysia there are zillion times more car owners, hence it'll be extremely difficult to persuade or convince people to switch over to public tranportation.

Thus The Penang Transport Master Plan, with the elevated LRT, assuming it's up and running efficiently, makes available only one small part of the solution. Oh BTW, don't forget the bus system like the old Lim Seng Seng, Hin, Yellow and City Council bus systems.

The other is to DISSUADE car owners from using their cars through expensive de-motivators, like Penang gazetting:

(a) Penang 'area tolls' (busy spots like Penang CBD etc) for cars carrying less than 3 people in vehicle, where otherwise a "considerable" toll will be levied,

(b) Perhaps the enforced 'odd' and 'even' numbered system allowed for cars, with very stern enforcement policies. Thrice-offenders will have their cars impounded and confined for at lead a month because fining some rich repeated offenders won't be effective. In earlier days, Hong Kong police had a 'taxi-prison' where repeated taxi offenders had their vehicles "jailed" for a certain period of time, wakakaka.

The solution seems to be:

(a) an alternative but adequate and not-too-expensive system inclduing an effective, comprehensive and affordable bus syetm,

(b) de-motivators to use the car, and

(c) very strong, stern and non-negotiable enforcement (no such thing as 'discounts offered for settling overdue fines', what pathetic enforcement)


  1. d) no more national car. tis u have to wait another 3 to 5 years since all the koksucker is quiet as a mouse.

  2. After so many years of neglect to upgrade public transportation whether it is trams, buses, LRTs, MRTs etc just like Jakarta, Bangkok, Manila and with millions of tourists both local and foreign increasing year by year, it will be a humongous task for any Govt. to both have the finances and ability to implement a quick solution.

    Those who keep on delaying and opposing any proposals by raising self interest issues, environment issues, land issues, etc are not the solution. They will be also the same ones who will raise issues of bad transportation system, congestion and traffic jams, no planning, no vision of State Govt. etc etc.

    You just can't avoid the fast and quick solution would be to build LRTs and MRTs all underground or above ground and let the less economical/profitable solution of providing feeder buses, trams, restricted zones etc to be managed and operated by the Govt.

    Make it an open International tender so that competition will reduce the cost and speed of implementing such proposals for those companies who are really into this business.

    The Govt. only need to regulate what should be an affordable rate for fares and concession period required for the private/international companies to be also a long term profitable business venture for them to operate and maintain.

    And lastly for financing, it is time for the State to issue bonds to be subscribed by EPF, KWAP, LTAT, PNB, Khazanah etc looking for long term fixed investment rate for their billions laying idle to finance and reduce the cost of construction and financing.

    Forget all the noises coming out from Penangites who are known to be Kiamsap and fear the cost of fares and their house prices dropping and whatever political noises from going ahead before it even gets off the ground.

    Everyone knows it is needed for the good and future of Penangites to have a smooth functional transportation system both for it's inhabitants as well as for it's tourism industry and it just needed to be done.

  3. Please take note that bus system is fall under method 1, which is by-force to take away the roads and fill it with BRT. This ridiculous idea will cause 97% of car drivers in penang to fight against the government once it is implemented. The political intention of people who suggested for this idea should be reviewed by the government and appropriate action should be taken against this suggestion.

    1. dei, aim is to kick cars off the roads thus a good bus system beisdes MRT etc will be very complementary, as in HK, Sing, Sydney

  4. The key point of discussion on preliminary planning on sustainable transportation solutions: “Ways to reduce the number of cars on the road”.

    Generally there are ONLY 2 categories of methods that we can consider to reduce the number of cars on the road, regardless of what ways/methods we are suggesting, it would fall under the methods as follow:

    Method A : Reduce the car numbers by force

    Examples: Increase taxes on car, limit the number of cars per family, reduce the number of roads, take up current road’s space to be used as Tram/BRT/ART’s dedicated lane, impose penalty on car drivers and etc.

    i. Effective in term of implementation, people will be forced to follow the rules to avoid penalty
    ii. Efficient, requires short period of time, even can be done in 1-2 days’ time
    iii. Low cost, not require any construction of elevated trail
    iv. Require lesser efforts, just a change of policy

    i. Causes serious inconveniency to the current road users
    ii. Create dissatisfaction and terrible hates towards the government
    iii. Create conflicts between the car drivers and the on-the-ground public transport system, as it takes up half of the road space
    iv. On-the-ground public transport system have poor estimated time of arrival (“ETA”)
    v. Against the vision to improve traffic congestion issues by worsening it
    vi. Against the freedom for road’s users to choose which method of transportation they prefer
    vii. Would not be able to change the mentality of the users, as they are using the public transport by force instead of their own willingness

    Method B : Provide alternative transport systems to the people

    Examples: To provide elevated LRT, elevated BRT, elevated ART, monorail or cable car which does not interrupt current traffic condition.

    i. Elevated public transport system will not interrupt current traffic condition
    ii. People have the right to choose the transportation method
    iii. Provide more accurate ETA for the users, higher efficiency compares to on-the-ground public transport
    iv. Able to change the mentality of the people as they choose the transportation method with their own intention due to the convenience of the public transport system
    v. More sustainable in term of long run against on-the-ground transportation system

    i. Higher cost of construction to build elevated transport system
    ii. Take longer time to build
    iii. Take longer time to change the mentality of the people by encouraging them to use public transport

    * Please take note that On-the-ground ART/BRT/Tram is definitely fall under Method A, a by-force method, as it requires to take up current road space in order to build the dedicated lanes. The final intention is to make the car drivers suffer more by making the traffic worse, then they would have no choice but to use the On-the-ground public transport.

    In my point of view, I do not agree with the suggestion to build on-the ground BRT as the first step of starting a sustainable transport system in penang as it falls under Method A , a by-force method where the car drivers have been forced to give up their cars due to worsen traffic condition caused by the on-the-ground BRT.

    We should consider Method B, to build an elevated transport system (whether it is LRT/monorail/ART and etc) as the first step of sustainable transport system as it provides alternative transportation system for the people without interrupting the current traffic condition. On-the-ground transport systems such as Dedicated lane BRT/ART should only come in later part after we have successfully reduced the number of cars.

    Based on the comparison above, which method do you think is more sustainable and suitable to be implemented in Penang?

  5. Ktemoc, are you living and commuting in Penang? We have idealists in our midst who want a 'Classic Penang' of a bygone era. Please bear in mind, Penang is a manufacturing and service based economy. We can never be like Kelantan or Langkawi. We need an efficient transport infrastructure to drive Penang's economic development where our human resources are our greatest asset as we don't have much of natural resources. The people of Penang are agitated for the delays in the implementation of the PTMP especially the LRT. We waste a lot of time and productivity stuck in sickening and stressful traffic jams. We don't need the BRT to jam our roads further and cause further congestion. Remember, the implementation of the PTMP is one of the reasons why we voted PH back to power in Penang. We are putting the Penang PH Government of YAB Chow Kon Yeow on notice to stop pussy footing in implementing the PTMP. The PTMP was deliberately delayed by the BN Regime in Putrajaya especially by that shrimp brain Abdul Rahman Dahlan. Now that we have a PH Goverment in Putrajaya, we expect the PTMP to be implemented without further delay. We know what we want for our State and we don't want Kay Poh Chees from outside to speak for us because they will never understand what are our aspirations and needs as Penangites. By the way, I'm not a member of any of the PH Component parties.

  6. Area Road Pricing has been proven to be an effective tool to fight traffic congestion, without resorting to Totalitarian measures such as bans on car ownership. If a user wants/needs to use his car in the inner city area, he still can, just that he will be charged for it. The technology to execute Area Road Pricing is well established by now.
    It must also be accompanied by improvements in public transport, especially mass transit systems.