It appears that the federal government is going ahead with a RM50 million plan to introduce water taxis and build more jetties in Penang Island and on the mainland.
Najib approved the conceptual plan in July. A month earlier, this blog had suggested that the Penang Port look into emulating Bangkok’s river buses along the Chao Phraya River.
But the devil is in the details. Now they are talking about allowing private firms to run the water taxi service. In the first phase, they want to target foreign tourists. The public would be targeted only in phase three. This is so unlike the low-cost river buses in Bangkok, where the passengers are mainly locals and the fares are low (apart from the separate cruise boats catering for the tourists). Public transport works best when the fares are affordable (even if it means government subsidies for an essential service) – but you can’t have affordable fares if you have private firms hoping to make huge profits.
Meanwhile, all the various parties appear to be doing their own thing. You have the bridge firms (federal) working on the second bridge, Penang Port working on the ferries and water taxis, Rapid Penang (federal) upgrading the bus service, the Penang state government reportedly looking into monorail, a proposal to revive the Penang Outer Ring Road on the cards, the aerorail proposal, and the new Penang Transport Council probably not being consulted on some of these projects. What a jolly rojak!
Where is the coordination, integration and masterplan? What about cost-effective options such as bus rapid transit and trams?
How are we going to have an integrated public transport system without first coming up with a sustainable statewide masterplan first? Shouldn’t we be working on the masterplan first instead of taking a piecemeal approach? Haven’t we learn anything from the lack of coordination and integration in KL especially in the planning of the different LRT routes?
The problem is that the feds want to get involved in Penang’s public transport. Would they collaborate with the state government or do their own thing? If they do their own thing, how is Penang supposed to come up with a public transport masterplan?
Business Times reports on the water taxis:
This service will be scheduled with multiple stops, operating in a similar manner to a bus, or on demand to many locations, just like a land taxi.
Which routes will the proposed service ply? The answer will depend on the final results of its feasibility study, said Tan.
In July, Penang Port Commission chairman Tan Cheng Liang was reported as saying that 10 proposed coastal points have been identified for the service: Butterworth, Bagan Ajam, Pulau Aman and Nibong Tebal on the mainland; and Weld Quay, Tanjung Bungah, Teluk Bahang, Tanjung Tokong, Pantai Jerejak and Batu Maung on the island.
“The location of the stops has not been decided yet. But we will probably select two to three stops with heavy traffic to begin with to as many as 15 stops once the project is completed.
“We will start with the routes that have the highest probability of success,” said Tan.
The pricing mechanism for the proposed water-based transportation project will also depend on the results of its feasibility study.
Meanwhile, NCIA is willing to work with interested entrepreneurs or private boat operators to launch the project.