Jakarta bus rapid transit consultant creates a stir in Penang


A funny thing happened in Penang last week. Think City organised a talk by Yoga Adiwinarto, the Indonesia country director of the Institute of Transport and Development Planning (ITDP), on 16 January – with unexpected results.

In his presentation, Yoga spoke about the successes – and challenges – of the bus rapid system in Jakata which began in 2004.

The irony was that, during the question-and-answer session and later, a few members of the audience, obviously gung-ho in their support of the state government’s RM46bn Penang land reclamation and property development masterplan ‘transport masterplan’, hogged the mike and tried their darndest to discredit the BRT – and even the ITDP.

Penang Forum members in the audience could only shake their heads in disbelief at some of their arguments. Yoga remained cool and calmly responded to their critique.

In fact, the ridership track record for Transjakarta since 2004 speaks for itself, the only dip around 2015 coming when it tried to implement a new smart card form of payment:

Transjakarta bus rapid system ridership: successful by any standards

The striking ridership jumps in recent years came on the back of an increased number of buses and feeder buses and improved ‘last mile’ connectivity.

It is obvious that Penang doesn’t need to spend RM46bn on a jumble of expensive, poorly thought-out transport modes. It should go back to the drawing board and come up with a genuinely sustainable mobility plan, undertaken by recognised sustainable mobility experts, using the Halcrow blueprint as a reference.

As Yoga and others have pointed out, look at the existing Rapid Penang bus services and work from there. The My50 travel card coming soon would be a huge step in the right direction. (Please make this available to everyone, not just Malaysian citizens.)

Next adjust the roads to make it quicker for buses, even if it means dedicated lanes here and there. (Just remove some of the on-street parking). Improve last-mile connectivity by upgrading pavements and putting up covered walkways. Get an app going which shows the real-time arrivals of buses and expected journey times – something like a Grab app but for buses.

If we can improve the bus system in Penang and more people are drawn to it, we could see a drop in the number of cars on the road – and then we won’t need to spend unnecessary billions on highways and elevated light rail transit.

Some of these bus routes could later be scaled up to street-level modern trams/LRT, perhaps trackless and without overhead wires, as when passenger loads warrant them it and finances permitting.

Without exploring the full potential of buses (and our ferries and waterways for that matter), which potentially could offer a wider network of routes for a fraction of the cost of big-ticket projects, it doesn’t make sense to drool over elevated LRT and grand highways.

Yoga gave an example of what RM4bn could do: it could provide a 426km network for bus rapid transit in contrast to just 40km for LRT, 14km for an ‘elevated metro’ and only 7km for an underground rail system. Think of the improvements that could be done to Rapid Penang with even a fraction of that money.

Look, with that sort of money, the Jakarta bus rapid transit, Transjakarta – which covers a 225km network, with 13 corridors and 155 routes – is serving 190 million passengers per year (521,000 per day) in a city of 9.6 million people.

In contrast, the short single-line elevated LRT in Penang, which will cost double that, at RM8bn, is forecasted to carry 42 million riders per year (116,000 per day) in an island of 800,000 residents. Sounds impressive – but how can it be achieved with just one corridor and a lack of integration with other modes?

Of course, the project proponents argue they will put in feeder buses to the LRT stations. But then, Rapid Penang, with some 300 buses covering around 70 routes across the whole state, presently carries just 90,000 passengers daily. No wonder critics laugh out loud at how inflated that 116,000 daily LRT ridership projection appears. If they are going to have feeder buses, why not drastically improve the overall bus service right now?

Critics also wonder how Penang can afford the budget to maintain and operate an elevated LRT and highway system when even building a short stretch of the Bukit Kukus ‘paired road’ is already a burden for the Penang Island City Council – quite apart from the heavy environmental cost to the people of Penang.

So why are we talking about an exorbitant 19.5km highway and a short single elevated light rail transit route which will add up to a whopping RM17bn and won’t solve congestion elsewhere? Unless of course the real motivating factor behind this grandiose plan is massive land reclamation for high-end property development under the guise of a ‘transport masterplan’.

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Penang CM responds to Selma Khoo’s repeated concern on PTMP


Highways does form part of partial BRT. During peak morning and evening hours, only buses and taxis can use the dedicated lane. After 9.30am, highway is free for all until 4.30 pm. Pg forum does not know how to think win win situation.


A good explanation by CM Chow.
The problem is too much fixation on car ownership, no desire by young Top Gear generation to use public transportation.


Even if pg has brt, pg forum critics will still use cars. Pg lang will still use cars. Cars being them right to the door steps as compare to brt . who wants to use feeder after brt. First waiting time for brt and travelling time as there are traffic lights in road junction. After lighting down from brt, they have to wait for feeder. Feeder may have traffic lights and jams. Finally a walk to the destination as compare to driving right to its destination.


the people who sing praises about BRT never take bus in their life …and think standing in a moving bus packed like a sardine is fun..

these critics who make the most noise usually don’t have a regular job and never travel during rush hours….

Qing Xiong

These people want you to take BRT so that there is less vehicles on the road to allow them to drive their cars freely without congestion.


Different arguments from different consultants.
Each is paid to convince you!

Elaine Cheh

Hi Anil, an example of a great bus app is Citymapper. This app works in many cities in the world


Public being misled over Penang tunnel and highway projects


Monthly RM400 instalment payment for 9-year car loan can give you at least a Proton Saga on the road. So public transportation has no chance!


Many are burdened by car loan and monthly maintenance/fuel/parking charges.


That country was a capitalist resource mine, slave colony and polluted hellhole from the time their dictator came to power until he was overthrown. E.g. you can look up articles by Andre Vltchek. Since then, the capitalist class are hindering democracy with the help of “religious” thugs. A few heroes are fighting for the people. A finance minister told IMF they would be crazy to take a loan from IMF. Mayor Ahok was jailed because he had razed criminal, redlight districts, improved sanitation in the worst places and prioritised the underclass. The biggest threat to the fascists was that he… Read more »


maybe the Penang government should listen to this one Yoga salesman from traffic jam stricken 3rd world Jakarta..maybe we can do it with RM500 budget…hehe


hehe….Penang forum too shy to mention the MRT and LRT system currently under construction in Jakarta….??


after so many accidents and death…what a screaming success this BRT…hehe

BTW , what is the difference in width of road between Penang and Jakarta again?


By Penang forum’s standard, Jakarta so nuts to replace the much superior much low cost BRT with ” outdated” MRT and LRT… hehe


Follow Singapore standard, impose electronic road pricing on busy roads in Penang to force adoption of public bus.