BRT: If Guangzhou can do it, why not Penang?


If congested Guangzhou can win a sustainable transport award for its BRT and cycle system, why not Penang and other cities in Malaysia?

Over in Mumbai, India, the youth appear to be streets ahead of the politicians in recognising the importance of more sustainable modes of transport.

I was on the Jelutong Expressway this evening heading towards the Penang Bridge, and its was choked. Two lanes of traffic from Green Lane were trying to merge into the already jammed three lanes heading towards the Penang Bridge. As the traffic inched forward, I wondered to myself, even if we have two Penang bridges, how would it ease congestion along the Jelutong Expressway?

And then I came across this.

From the website of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy:


Cities worldwide are demonstrating innovation in transport planning by integrating bike, BRT and metro systems, with Guangzhou in China announced as winner of the 2011 Sustainable Transport Award. Guangzhou’s new world-class BRT system integrates with bike lanes, bike share and metro stations, raising the bar for all cities.

Walter Hook, Executive Director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, commented: “Guangzhou’s transformations are nothing short of amazing. The reclaimed waterways for public space inspired by another Sustainable Transport Winner – Seoul – are a drastic improvement and bold innovation. The new BRT system is changing perceptions about bus-based and high quality mass transit. We hope all cities, not least those in the US, will be inspired by these examples.”

Sophie Punte, Executive Director, Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) Center, elaborated: “Guangzhou has demonstrated that future emissions can be avoided through BRT systems integrated with cycling and other public transport systems at relatively low costs.”

The Sustainable Transport Award is given annually to the city that made most progress over the year to increase mobility for all residents while reducing transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions and improving safety and access for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Honorable Mentions:

León in Mexico, home of Mexico’s first BRT, now achieving a level of integration unsurpassed in the region. Dario Hidalgo, Director of Research and Practice at EMBARQ, explained: “León was Mexico’s pioneer in introducing integrated bus systems and BRT in 2003; now they have scaled their system from 35% to 65% of the transit trips, through route reorganization and continued inclusion of the local bus operators. León has also an extraordinary track record in active transport, keeping the biking and walking share above 39% of the total trips, one of the highest values in Latin American cities.”
Tehran, Iran, where the introduction of congestion charging complements the city’s expansion of its metro and BRT systems. Lloyd Wright, Executive Director of Viva Cities, commented: “Over the past several years, Tehran has faced one of the world’s most severe air quality crises. The local climate, topography, and sharp growth in private cars have all conspired to create a lingering air quality emergency over the city. The national and local government have responded boldly. Investments in quality rail and BRT are re-defining public transport in Tehran, and a move towards new cycle and pedestrian infrastructure is helping to transform mobility patterns as well. Even more boldly, though, the government has begun the process of reducing fuel subsidies. In all, Tehran is developing a package of carrots and sticks that will hopefully steer the city towards a more sustainable mobility path.”
Nantes in France, where the integration of its bus light rapid transit with its tramway network presents a model of efficient coordination. Heather Allen, Senior Manager, Sustainable Development, International Association of Public Transport, argued: “Ambitious targets, vision combined with integrated planning and sustained investment have paid big dividends in Nantes. Last year it made significant progress in integrating its tramway and bus system, promoting bicycling and continuing to shift people away from cars. Its integrated transport system helps make it one of the most livable cities in Europe.”
Lima, Peru, where the long-awaited BRT is the first step towards creating an integrated citywide sustainable transport system. Sergio Sánchez, Director, Clean Air Institute for Latin America, said: “Lima has finally made considerable progress with planning, designing and launching its new BRT system. We truly hope that this trend continues in coming years and that we will see the same progress in 2011 and the following years.”

Finally, Manfred Breithaupt, Senior Transport Advisor, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), said: “The Sustainable Transport Award has been growing in importance every year, and giving greater relevance to the topic of physical and fare integration is most relevant to increase attractiveness and acceptance of public transport. This has been done by many of the nominated cities during 2010. We at GIZ are very happy to be part of this initiative.”

The Nominees are chosen by a Committee that includes the most respected experts and organizations working internationally on sustainable transportation. Committee members include:

Walter Hook, Executive Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
Dario Hidalgo, Senior Transport Engineer, EMBARQ, The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport
Manfred Breithaupt, Senior Transport Advisor, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit)
Sophie Punte, Executive Director, Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) Center
Heather Allen, Senior Manager, Sustainable Development, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)
Ralph Gakenheimer, Chair, Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation in Developing Countries
Sergio Sánchez, Director, Clean Air Institute for Latin America
Choudhury Rudra Charan Mohanty, Environmental Expert, United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD)

The Sustainable Transport Award is given each year during the annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington, D.C. Past winners include:

2010 – Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Ahmedabad, India, for opening the first full bus rapid transit system in India.
2009 – Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York, United States, for making bold moves to achieve the ambitious goals of PlaNYC 2030.
2008 – Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, Paris, France for implementing a range of innovative mobility solutions with vision, commitment and vigor. Mayor Ken Livingston, London, United Kingdom for expanding London’s congestion charge program and developing other low emissions programs that dramatically impacted air quality.
2007 – Mayor Jaime Nebot, Guayquil, Ecuador for revitalizing the downtown, creating dynamic public spaces, and instituting a new public transit system.
2006 – Mayor Myung-Bak Lee, Seoul, Korea for the revitalization of the Cheongyecheon River and the implementation of its bus rapid transit system.
2005 – former Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, Bogotá, Colombia for the TransMilenio bus rapid transit system, bicycle integration, and public space reclamation.

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Why Building Roads Creates Traffic from INFRASTRUCTURIST by Eric Jaffe In the transportation world our intuition can lead us astray. On first thought, no one would suspect that removing a major road can improve traffic flow — yet that’s exactly what it does (or would do) in some cases. The flipside of this contrarian coin is that building a brand new highway often fails to alleviate the congestion that inspired its construction in the first place. Economists Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner of the University of Toronto offer an impressive and empirical explanation for this concept in an upcoming issue… Read more »


There are too many man made barriers erected along the way for an evetual arrival of an efficient public transportation system in city across Malaysia, ultimately, if that is allowed to happen, many interested parties coffers will be hurt by BRT and only benefit the domestic and international travellers. That is why Guangzhou can do it, while Malaysia can’t.


You know why Guangzhou can do it and Penang cannot ? To begin with they don’t have to borrow any money to do it, they even have spare that can be loaned to a third world country like Malaysia and as a consequent it is a no starter for Malaysia. Sorry a spade will always be a spade !

Wong Kok

Guangzhou is homogeneously 1 race but not Penang. Enough said.



The good solution is ELECTRIC Bicycle!!!!! Ask UMNO/Gerakan Government to license ELECTRIC bicycle. Penang is a small island. In the morning people will be ELECTRIFIED by bicycle to work. Afterwork, they can exercise by cycling back home!!!! Their high blood pressure and other ill health will be reduced.

Anil you should be a strong advocate of cars only on weekends or evenings.


No way to pay license for electric bicycles!
Already it helps to reduce pollution, some more to pay to the Feds?
Not another leeching Satu Lagi Kang Tau like the mandatory motorbike headlight bulbs (a stupid idea for having bike headlights ON during the bright-sunshine day)


tunglang , putting on the headlight save life. The bulb is cheap. If go one step further, using LED instead of the normal bulb as daylight safety light, it will last for decades.

I like the idea of electricity bikes license, pay to the municipal councils, to compensate facilities such as bicycle stand to lock bicycle.


Electric bike is not the issue. Paying license to who and how much are the issues! Pay a small license fee to municipal = AAAOK! Pay to Feds = Choy Nie Ngong! Pay to Tunglang = Make My Day Come True! BTW, putting on bike headlight during broad daylight is OK if it rains or if there is heavy mist as in Genting. But for putting on for the mere visibility of bikes on normal bright sunshine day, Malaysians must be truly cock-eyed or wearing heavily tinted sunglasses for not noticing a bike coming without headlights. I would love to… Read more »


Fully agreed with your suggestion. With the implementation of electric bicycles, the number of cars plying the roads will be greater reduced, resulting in the reduction in pollution, no to mention the cost of savings to the people.


The Chinese Electric bicycles are dangerous.

1. They travel at a speed which is far higher than what their brakes and wheels can respond in a emergency.
2. They are too quiet in operation. You look left, look right, look left again as another silent bully zooms past you.


S/pore was able to do it b/cos they enforced congestion pricing first – 1975, b4 they implement the MRT – 1987 Under Lee Kuan Yew, it is much easier to just impose a policy with a take it or leave it approach. once ppl are weaned off their cars, there is demand for public transport and as such MRTs can be profitable. on the other hand, Msia with a car friendly policy to sell Protons does not do this and as such, LRT has fewer take ups. to implement an efficient public transportation, a price must be paid… Read more »


Because Lim Guan Eng and his DAP guys prefer to listen to big corporate towkays with lots of cash in their pockets instead of using their brains and listening to ordinary Penangites who voted for them.


Our bicycle riding YB Teh Yee Cheu should lead the public transport master plan in Penang. That is leadership by example!

charlie chan

if singapore can do it – with the best public transport system, why cant malaysia do it. because we are run by clowns n comedians n half past six administration


The answer to your question is 1) Guangzhou is NOT an island and terrain is flat- traffic dispersal is a lot easier. 2) China is a communist state, urban planning is a piece of cake if you can rail-road over private property rights. But truth be told, Guangzhou transport lines have been well planned long time ago with wide roads and line build into the most dense part of the city. Its a lot harder to built dedicated bus lanes in Penang when many key roads are only two-lane wide at most. You can stuff a square peg into a… Read more »


FYI, many 8 lanes highways in Shenzhen that run straight endlessly without overhead electric cables are strategic not only for traffic dispersal but also for military purposes:
for landing and taking off of fighter jets in times of conflict or internal unrest!
Such is the Art of War thinking in modern China.

Ong Eu Soon

LGe has no vision, no political will, no wisdom to do any great except to do what are left behind by zero KPI. LGe only intend to compete to be another zero KPI, to be another BN.

Wong Kok

I hope Ah Soon will be brave enough to stand as an independent candidate in the next GE. Action is better than all the words you have written thus far.


Bus licensing in under UMNO/Gerakan Government and their style is towards motor vehicle otherwise Proton or Kancil will go bust if fewer people buys cars. Guangzhou can do it because in China, roads and footpaths are very very very wide like the Yangtze River. (The British) build early roads in Straits Settlement and Malaya for bullcarts whereas China build roads for HORSEcarts ie horse roads. UMNO follow (British) style and at the most building 4 lanes cariage. So where to put the dedicated busway? If 2 lanes are for the busway this leaves only 2 lanes for Gerakan K, us… Read more »


How is the bus services to Seberang Perai Selatan? We seem to be going backwards in development of the mainland state. The Island is over-developed. It is about time the mainland gets its share of first-class development too. For a start create top-notched leisure and recreational facilities along the entire mainland water-front.


penang mainland house prices still relatively way cheaper compared to penang island ……

James Cameron

Penangites has this mentality that bicycles and bus rides are beneath them. Bus transport is for foreign worker and people who cant afford private transportation. This is a big hurdle to overcome.

Next is, even though the bus services have been improved, there is still this stigma that it is not dependable, not on time etc..

State Government should champion bus uses, and make public transport a social norm.


LGE should set the standard by taking Rapid Bus to work for one week. I will be at Macalister Road waiting with a bicycle to catch the same bus with him.
After that all Aduns and MPs must follow up with the same (this is to show the political will to “Just Do It”).
As for feasibility, we can’t let the details distract us nor dishearten us.
“The devil is in the details,” the popular saying goes.


Penang CM official residence… Driving distance to Komtar building (436-460 Jalan Penang) 4.7km, riding to Komtar distance 3.8km.


“Driving distance to Komtar building (436-460 Jalan Penang) 4.7km”
… or 30 minutes at a fast walk. If you live within 4.7km of your office and are caught driving there, you should be made to clean drains for a month.

30 minutes walking only just qualifies as ‘minimum exercise’ for someone of LGE’s age. Getting on a bicycle would reduce it to about 10 minutes (unless you’re wearing “a broad-brimmed hat and a loose-fitting jacket”, in which case, it’s still 30).

If 4.7km is driving distance, what is ‘cycling distance’? Are we talking about transport policy or vanity projects?


how about Komtar Aseemblyman Ng Wei Aik riding bicycle to Komtar office ? Surely must set example so that more people can follow !


3.8km are walking/bicycle riding route, regardless of the terrain. Sometime smoother but longer distance justify for better riding experience.

A typical 26″ wheel bicycle will cruise on the flat land 16-20km/h using low gear. You are right, it is 10mins bicycle ride. Car does not have a clear advantage compare to bicycle for such distance.

Penang Island early morning breeze are no way near 28 degree Celsius. Actually, it should be no more than 25 degree Celsius. The 30 something you talk about only happen afternoon, between 1pm -3 pm .


The ’30’ I referred to was minutes, but it’s a good point you made about the time of day. Regular commuters in day jobs will be riding at the coolest times of day.


If I were LGE, I will jog all the way to Komtar office. 3.8 or 4.7 km doesn’t matter.
This will make me more healthy and more alert and more mentally effective in state decision making and strategizing for the good of Penang….
Anyway, Macalister Road is full of tall and shady 100 years trees and thus is good for jogging or cycling since my childhood days of the 60’s and 70’s.

Or why not try kung fu jogging?

semuanya OK kot

Not just Penangites, but all Malaysians will avoid buses when they can because
– corruption, incompetence and bureaucratic stifling of competition make the buses dirty, irregular, packed, hot, expensive, unhealthy, impractical for the infirm.
– the influence of the car, road and petroleum industries slows down buses.

Someone suggested that the goverment let the various modes “fight it out”. Pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds cannot fight against heavy road traffic. The whole purpose of the corrupted system is not to move people but to enrich the ruling “class”.


BRT can be done, and shld be done. however, the initial stages can cause traffic jams, imagine – 3 lanes being blocked off 1 lane for just buses. however, it may not be a bad thing as once drivers see that the lanes for buses are smooth but not cars, they would leave their cars at home and hop on buses. it will be however, unpopular with motorists. as i hv said earlier, it is time for LGE to capitalize on his political capital and to take bold moves that may be unpopular but necessary. a popular govt may look… Read more »


How can Malaysia compete with the rest of the world when you have a “cut and paste” policy…opting the easy way out and greasing many dirty hands along the way. It is not just Guangzhou, see how they integrated the road system between Zhuhai and Macau and improve on their waterways connecting Hong Kong (airport and HK domestic ports) to all neighboring cities. Although Malaysia, started her developments much earlier than China, she has gone stagnant or “barren”.
Yes Bolehland can do it and do best! “Curi”!!!!

Wong Kok

Proton has shown us that its ‘cut & paste’ achievement (rebadged Lancer) is recognised with more grant for its ‘R&D’ from BN to further deepen the barang naik syndrome when subsidies of basic goods for rakyat are cut to make the grant to Proton possible.

Bolehland’s ‘R&D’ is basically ‘C&P’!!!

K S Ong

The main stumbling block seems to be that transport is in the hands of Federal government and the state is now in opposition hands. So no matter how good a system, political rivalry will likely come into play. Besides sabotage, there is no way federal government would help the state to shine and make it impossible to win back. Then there is the usual ‘pork barreling’ mentioned which we have seen enough of ‘the bigger the better’ projects to enrich the party and self interests which BN is known for. Not that we have no excellent contractors but the ones… Read more »


Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is something stranger to Malaysian, also something that BN ‘pork barrel’ government REFUSE to mention. In fact, I don’t mind the country build up a BRT fleet using drb-hicom bus. However, compare to MRT building that scale to multiple billions, it is clear that UMNO always eye for the biggest ‘pork barrel’ project. All sort of sign (fuel hikes, insufficient material, high material import cost) , show uncompetitive national car is a sunset industry. When Najib … Malaysian about saving on subsidies, he handout 222 millions subsidies to Proton last year as grant. Thus we see… Read more »


It takes a change of mindset (to being socialist) of all concerned to Just Do It.
No more massive profiteering from opportunists favoring Satu Lagi Projek in the disguise of more highways and tunnels which will make Penang look more like rat or meerkat infested island.

Or do we have to wait until our oil reserve is used up?


Anyone watch Malaysia road closely, you will notice the country are not into a real road culture. The road building frenzy habits are mostly pork barrels handout. Just look at the road carefully, you will notice sand, silts,small gravels,etc cumulate along the road, or even on the road. Malaysia government building road but neglect to maintain it. Road stress mark of heavy vehicle at most of the bus stop, if you happen touring the petronas twin tower, well, you can look at a long line of heavy load stress mark where the bus stop is, locate in front of twin… Read more »


Change is the key word. No point harping on our short comings and “just can’t do it” mentality.
It takes no End of the World 2012 to get people to start thinking about their own perils.
So neither it takes to be a Chinese in PRC to move things and break records.
Remember: We all have only one precious shot at life on beautiful earth. One precious opportunity to change and improve things in Boleh Land.
CAT is one good example. Meow!