The Penang State Exco has set up a Penang Transport Council, whose motto is “moving people, not cars”. The biggest and most formidable challenge for the Council, however, is how it responds to any attempt to revive the highly controversial Penang Outer Ring Road (Porr) project.
The formation of the council, chaired by state exco member Chow Kon Yeow, is a step in the right direction. The Council’s task is to tackle transport problems especially trying to get the public to move away from “over-dependence on private transport to a more economically and ecologically sustainable public transport system. The system will be people-centric and part of the council’s task is also to increase public awareness, participation in and acceptance of such a system.”
The council is made up of “state and city council members, civil servants, university professors, professionals, stakeholders, and members of the public with interest in and knowledge of transport issues”.
The council has embarked on a pilot project to de-congest the busy Pulau Tikus area. But the biggest challenge for the council will come in its response to any plan to revive Porr. The latest edition of The Edge carried a report that Porr could be on the table again.
The paper quoted sources as saying that a private company Daya Aliran Inovasi Sdn Bhd (shareholders Ahmad Ismail and Nordin Chin), with the blessings of the Economic Planning Unit, has submitted a proposal to the Penang government to undertake the project.
On 8 September, Bernama reported that the Penang government is still waiting for feedback from the federal government on the project. Guan Eng reportedly said the state government had sent a few letters to the federal government and the EPU but had yet to receive any response.
Now, Porr would be totally against the vision of the Penang Transport Council to get the public to move away from an “over-dependence on private transport to a more economically and ecologically sustainable public transport system”.
The Penang state government has to state categorically what its positions on Porr and sustainable transport are. It is difficult to see how the two can be reconciled. After all, how can you “reduce use of private cars” if you are building more highways and bridges for private vehicles?
When Porr was first mooted under the BN administration, it received stiff opposition from residents groups, civil society groups, and significant segments of the public. Because of this and other financial constraints, the state government and the company quietly shelved the project eventually.
Now there are rumblings about Porr again. Is there any difference between the BN and Pakatan when it comes to this project? Those pushing for Porr are not thinking about the long-term future of Penang as a sustainable place.
The Penang Transport Council has the following plans. These are commendable, but if Porr returns then that could effectively – and sadly – nullify these noble intentions:
- Inform public of objectives and plans, solicit input and feedback. Involve mass and alternative media
- Decongest traffic and enforce rules against illegal parking and traffic blockage
- Improve public and private car parks
- Work with Rapid, bas kilang, bas sekolah to improve bus services
- Start Master Plan process going
- Build bicycle lanes and improve pedestrian walkways and disable friendly paths
- Introduce multiple feeder systems to main road arteries – bicycles, smaller buses, trishaws etc
- Improve taxi services
- As bus service improves, introduce mechanisms to reduce use of private cars such as peak hours fees, area road pricing, incentives for car pooling, disincentives for single occupant cars during peak hours etc.
- Improve and extend ferry service and water taxis
- Review all mega-projects
- Implementation of Master Plan for whole state
- Integration of different transport modes – buses, cars, trams, ferries, rail – one ticket system
- Continuous public education programs
- Park and ride points, e.g. PISA, Jelutong Expressway etc.