New beginning for public transport – from the bottom up


More reactions from people regarding the federal government’s shelving of the mega transport projects for Penang. Obviously, the federal government doesn’t consider those projects as “people friendly”, which makes me wonder how they came up with those projects in the first place!

Not a few people here are now seeing the shelving – or is it the scrapping? – of the monorail and Porr as a golden opportunity for Penang to do some serious public transport planning from scratch and to come up with a sustainable transport masterplan for the whole state. Let’s show them what we can do – to bring about a sustainable, people-friendly, affordable and accessible public transport system!

Here’s a quick reaction from blog reader Moaz Yusuf Ahmad:

This news is great. Let’s hope that the Penang Government will use the opportunity to create a very effective public transport system for Penang, building it from the ground up.

First, get SBPP (the state bus corp) started. The government can buy the buses and tender the operations contracts to various operators…and even operate the buses themselves. A few of the operators could be from other countries. How about some professional internationally-recognised operators like First PLC or Veolia or ComfortDelGro….

Second, use the “hub and spoke” concept because it works. Just make sure to provide proper bus lanes and proper bus hubs and proper information.

Third, bus lanes are going to be an absolute necessity on the “mainline” bus routes, to make people see that public transport is convenient and reliable. With proper bus lanes and frequency, the mainline bus routes should be able to move 5,000 passengers per direction per hour, which is about as many as the KL Monorail!

Fourth, identify potential “mainline” routes which can potentially carry more passengers – up to 15,000 passengers per direction per hour. These lines will be the RapidTram lines in the future.

Fifth, regarding the historical tram service for the inner city, it should be clear that this is a separate service. I suggest that they can start it start with a tram bought off the shelf, and supplement the service with “trams” (”historical” buses) like the ones in JB and Terengganu.

Good luck Penang. Let’s see you make public transport work.

Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

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Penang Chief Minister is lobbying for the 2 mega projects to be reinstated. That is the Monorail and PORR. Listing a lot of benifits if having the 2 projects continue.

What say you, Anil?

Kah Seng

OK, the bottom line: Our transport woes stem from NEP. Under the NEP, commercial licensing power was concentrated in the Ministry of Entrepreneur and Cooperatirves (besides the Economic Planning Unit under PM’s office and Finance Ministry). Under that Ministry is the CVLB, or Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board. The CVLB controls the licensing for buses, taxis, some ferries, all kinds of commercial transport. It picks the crony licensees by connection, not by competence, efficiency, or inter-coordication. Now matter how much we howl, as long as the zombie NEP (which has expired but has not expired) is undead, the gain for the… Read more »


The beauty of Penang is that it is a small island surrounded by water. Instead of PORR, why not use water transport. From South East End, ferry boats can made a few stops to the city and to north part. No need to build roads, land acquistion and no traffic jams. There should also be a ferry service from southern end to Prai so that people need not to go to the city to catch the ferry. The Penang Port can start this service. Think laterally!!!


Many in favour of tram because it is something new, cute and novel to them. But it is only meant for short distance because it is slow. As Kah Seng said, when the tram stop, the cars have to stop because passengers are dropping off. Otherwise, everyday someone will get hit unless protective islands on centre of the roads are built. This means the cars cannot share the same space as trams if protective islands are built. PORR can be abandoned because due to petrol prices going up, people will turn to public transport IF they are relatively good. So… Read more »


If we are ever going to realize an efficient public transport system, some drastic and unpopular measures will have to be implemented. Needless to say, a huge amount of political will is required. Singapore, which is under what could best be described as a sustainable dictatorship, has shown that if the masses are made to fully understand the reasoning behind social policies, then greater public cooperation will be forthcoming. For far too long, Malaysians have taken the easy way out. A change in attitudes is long overdue. Remember the advertising campaigns carried out in the 90’s to encourage car pooling.… Read more »


I am echoing khensthoth’s 1st comment, that reviving the bus system is the best short term measure we can have now. Let’s reflect back how is the bus system worked back in the 80’s. Different bus company cater for different geographical areas. Penang folks, still remember ‘Lim Seng Seng’, ‘Sri Negara’, ‘Hin Bus’, ‘Yellow Bus’? And not forgetting the ‘government bus’ also. As far as I can remember, public transportation back then was fairly efficient, I don’t even have to take taxis then, in fact I never took taxi when I was a kid. We can always take cue from… Read more »


I’ve been to Hong Kong before, and the public transport works because there’s integrated planning and implementation in different kinds of transport. Honestly, my feeling about Hong Kong tram is just awful. It’s so small everyone is cramped, it’s hard to even move around. However, the price of using the tram was extremely cheap. What I am questioning here is if the “Penangites for Tram” initiative has a well thought out plan. A lot of the bloggers just jump on the bandwagon of supporting it without critically analysing the proposal. Some say tram has produce no pollution. Relatively speaking, that’s… Read more »

Old Timer

“Good posts all round. here’s mine which I sent o Vox populi before I saw yours on the same topic : I refer to the topic – EPU: Penang monorail, Porr shelved – and note the valid points but I think maybe the main and critical issue has been missed. The main problem with Penang is the many vehicles plying its roads thus contributing to its perennial taffic jams and gridlocks. Singapore has faced the same problems in its early days and there are many similarities between Penang and Singapore in ithis regard. Personally, I feel there is little need… Read more »


I realized that there are many houses in Penang that are not accessible through the main roads (i.e. you need to walk a long distance through many small roads to reach a place accessible by buses and taxis). Furthermore the roads are so split out that public transport can’t possibly service all the routes. An integrated tram/taxi/bus system would be good for the town center, but not for access to housing areas. I think that lack of access to their houses encourages them to use cars and to not even think of public transport. I think what can be done… Read more »

Kah Seng

Monorail and PORR could still “start in the 10th Malaysia Plan.” So civil society, better get involved in the planning now. “Critics say Abdullah is punishing his home state for voting in the Opposition coalition of Lim’s Democratic Action Party (DAP) and its partner the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) but government officials denied the allegations, saying the projects could start in the 10th Malaysia Plan.” —- khensthoth, About tram. True, biggest problem will be it hogs the surface road. I lived in HK for a while, one street away from tram way in Wanchai. I am a regular user… Read more »


kensthoth: the trams are still in proposal stage, knowing how things work it will take some time, 5-10 years before we see anything. i’m sure all issues will be carefully thought out. perhaps start small and grow from there like most train networks. malaysia born: you’re asking for a mentality and mindset change, it will take more than spanking new buses with gadgetry. s’pore has a good one as well, and i recall some family friend who went there to become a bus driver, had to go through a few rounds of interview, and several months of training before they… Read more »

The Yarning

This is great, keep the discussion and suggestions coming, let’s hear it from all sides and hope the state gov will be more proactive and inclusive in their decision-making and treat this as an opportunity to, like said above : start something great from ground up. It’s sad that all the newspapers are concentrating on is this person or another upset, and some blogs ought to stop fanning the BN doing this to punish Penangites idea.


I fully agree that this is a golden opportunity to turn my island home state into a model of public transportation similar to my adopted residence, Singapore. Tear away the UMBO/BN box of opportunism & greed, dump the 2nd Penang bridge, at the same time. Let all with environmental interest in Penang, come together with a new blueprint on transportation within Penang, and some say Seberang Prai, too. Let Penang be the envy of Selangor, Johor, Kelantan and Perak as we see necktied executives riding our air-con buses/trams to work daily. All come together now and make it a reality.… Read more »

A true Malaysian

Guan Eng,

I shake your hand in DAP PJ CNY open house and wish u good luck. It turned out just nice.

Hope u make yourself into Bapa Penang Moden.

Good luck again. Don’t let BN look ‘suay’ on u.

A true Malaysian

It is a blessing indeed for not continue the monorail an porr. Monorail and porr will aggravate traffic congestion problem in Penang. Just look at what is happening in KL.

There is no other way to solve this congestion problem other than to control car population on the road and have a good system for bus route. Just learn from Singapore. JB is too proud to learn from Singapore, but not Penang, I hope.


Why have Malaysians been so dependent on government? It’s commendable to improve public transport. But in the long run, we MUST take economic planning out of the government’s hands. The reason why privatization failed in the past was because certain parties with special interest had ‘friends’ in government. These in turn were linked with government-related socialist programs, like NEP, Approved Permits (AP), economic planning. All the corruption we’ve seen had always been at the stage of bureaucrats, secret contracts…anything government-linked. This state of decadence cannot be solved by having more government involvement. The solution lies in giving more freedom to… Read more »

Juan Taman

DAP now rules Penang. Prepare a comprehensive people- affordable traffic plan for Penang. Negotiate with the Federal government for funding the plan.
DAP has to be proactive rather than waiting for goodies from the Federal.

malaysia born

If there are any transport system to emulate, it is the Japan transport system. Having lived in Tokyo and Nagoya, I find the system there simple awesome. Considering that the streets of Tokyo are congested but the s=buses there are run on time and destinations are announced in the busese beforehand and the buzzer that they use in the buses are just simply fantastic! All one needs to do is just press the buzzer once and should anyone press it next, it won’t sound thus eliminating the annoying buzzing sound to the driver! On top of that, the buses are… Read more »


That sounds more viable than a tram system, at least to me. If you are advocating a tram system, let it be known your proposal. This is what I have said in other internet forum: I have voiced my concern in other post and I will do so again. Although I am not entirely supportive of monorail, I am even more sceptical of trams in George Town. Living in Melbourne currently, here’s what I feel about tram: Noisy. Ugly (overhead cables). Do not really blend with the surrounding, even more so with George Town – c’mon newish trams with old… Read more »


Good news indeed. Now get those trams moving.