Are Penang transport masterplan’s projected ridership figures realistic?

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Photograph: The Malaysian Insider

The Penang transport masterplan, put out by SRS Consortium, has come up with projected ridership figures for the expensive elevated LRT from Komtar to Penang Airport. What is crucial is whether these ridership figures are realistic or inflated – for that will determine whether or to what extent the people of Penang will be saddled with operational losses.

Yes, operational losses. It is relatively easy to build expensive infrastructure. But will it result in expensive operational failures if actual ridership fails to match what was projected?

Once the project delivery partner collects its fees and the infrastructure firms are paid from the proceeds of sales of land reclamation –  a total of some RM40bn – who will bear the burden if there are operational losses? The state government? But its annual revenue is only RM0.7bn and it has its regular operational and development expenditure to meet – which doesn’t leave much left over to cover any losses.

Penang Forum has just released a statement as shown below:

When will full SRS report be released as promised?

In The Star today (17 May 2016), YB Chow Kon Yeow reportedly stated that the estimated number of passengers taking the LRT from George Town to the airport by 2023 is 116,000 daily. This works out to be 42.34m yearly. Were these estimates provided by the SRS consultants in their report? If yes, they should be made public.

Penang Forum had earlier written that the SRS population projections are overly optimistic compared to that of the Department of Statistics of Malaysia (2.45m versus 1.89m persons by 2030). Hence projected ridership could be inflated.

We were told that ridership depends on traffic volume; hence tourist arrivals should be factored in. The total number of tourists visiting Penang in 2015 was 6m and for the whole of Malaysia 25.7m.

Let us assume the tourist arrivals are doubled to 12m by 2023, and half use the LRT; we would still have 36m ridership to fill the gap to reach 42m. This works out to a daily ridership of 99,000 by local Penang people on just this LRT line.

Do we have so many people in Penang island to fill this gap, taking note that in February 2016, RapidPenang buses carried only 93,000 passengers daily for the whole state of Penang after almost 10 years of operation.

It is the release of such data in drips and drabs that sets off red lights and raises our concerns. Did SRS provide these estimates in their report to justify the LRT line? If they did not, it is even more worrying that a recommendation can be made without a proper prior financial feasibility study.

The Penang state government must learn lessons from the financial calamity of the Kuala Lumpur LRT and monorail projects in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Within the first few years of operations, the federal government had to pump in close to RM6bn to bail out the debts of these companies! Will Penang have the federal government to bail us out?

Among the reasons for the financial failure were the hugely inflated ridership projections.

For example, the actual daily ridership of LRT2 was 12,000 or 3 per cent of the projected ridership (of 360,000) in 1999 when it started operation. Even after four years of operation in 2003, its ridership was 160,000 or 44 per cent of what was projected.

LRT1 performed better but the actual ridership was also way below what was projected at 38 per cent in 1999.

As Dr Lim Mah Hui, MBPP councillor reminded us in his press statement of 10 May 2016, it is easy to physically build public transport, much more difficult to manage and maintain them as financially viable projects. Hence, detailed financial feasibility studies with different options must be presented to the public for deliberations before construction projects are awarded.

Why should the Penang state government be seen to be defending the SRS proposal at the review stage? Instead, they should be asking penetrating questions and subject SRS’ proposal to proper review by all stakeholders to ensure the best options are selected.

The projections given by SRS must be substantiated with credible assumptions. And only a full disclosure of their report can do justice to convince people that their proposals are the best option for the people of Penang to support.

Penang Forum steering committee
17 May 2016

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David Loman

A new residential development project north of Aarhus will be a car-free zone, making it the first of its kind in Denmark:
http://www.thelocal.dk/20150730/danish-city-to-develop-traffic-free-district

zoro

problem is after 15 min walk then what ? another 15 min wait for bus taking 45 min as it goes through different hse estates to pick up/ drop passengers.. if have to stand launch forward when bus brakes. why all these if u have a car. can come early n watch simpsons

XiaoBee

If you are used to driving your own car, then it is unlikely that you can have the patience to take public bus as it stops frequently to pick up passengers. To have the patience to take public transportation, it must start from the young age, but the present parents would pamper their kids by driving them with own cars.

gk ong

Fast and Furious generation has no patience to take bus or LRT.

zoro

bee, that is why lrt is many times better than trams and can convert car and kapcai drivers to lrt riders. frequent, no jams. n clean. u drive to inner town, try to find park space and on the way meet many encounters. do save the hassle, drive to stn where anil says the empty under the lrt viaduct can be converted to psrking

Ravi123

Address the BASICS first lah before going big with the masterplan, pls ?

Why not make the pedestrian walks friendly to walkers ? Make sure the paths are even, not obstructed by signboards or tress/[plant; and are well shltered from the heat with shady plants above our heads ?

Rememeber humans are born with legs and motor vehicles come later. So priority should address the pedestria walks.

gk ong

Proper walkways can promote walking as a form of exercise, reduce BMI and obesity. I think people should walk more often, instead of driving all the time.

Promoting walking is essential to the success of LRT, as in the future Penangites will need to walk 5-15 minutes from their homes to the nearest LRT stations.

Jive

5-15 minutes to LRT to some no bin chooi. Need to get someone to drive them to nearby LRT station, so traffic congestion can never be resolved especially around LRT.

For ladies return home via LRT, danger lurks if they walk back from station to home, so we can expect many lining up around LRT stations to pick up returning passengers. This can create traffic chaos.

Ambeng Jair

The government does not build proper pedestrian walkways as most people including the decision makers do not walk nowadays but prefer to drive?

gk ong

Contractors cannot make money building pedestrian walkways?

tunglang

That’s their problem of not thinking out of the CAT Box.

zoro

Also include planners and soon to be pg transport council drive, or take public transport or cycle at least to work??