Penang at a crossroads: Building more highways or a good public transport system?


MBPP councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui wrote this commentary after an exchange with Roger Teoh, a PhD student in transport engineering, who is also a DAP member:

Over the past weeks, Roger Teoh, a PhD student in transport engineering, has contributed three articles in Malaysiakini on the proposed Penang transport masterplan. Based on an analysis of an extensive database of key transport statistics from 100 cities around the world, he has come to several important conclusions, many of which are very relevant for Penang.

First and foremost, he confirms, what is broadly accepted by academics, that supplying more highways simply creates more demand for their use (he calls it induced demand). Any initial improvement in traffic congestion will eventually be wiped out, i.e., building more roads does not solve traffic congestion; it only kicks the can down the road.

Unless engineers, politicians and transport planners understand this fundamental fact, we are forever doomed to repeat the same expensive mistakes.

His data analysis of 100 cities shows a very strong positive correlation between car use and highway supply, i.e. the more highways supplied the more a city is car dependent, regardless of public transport improvement.

He also showed that, compared to other cities, Penang has a relatively high per capita freeway supply (in fact higher than Singapore); and the Penang transport masterplan’s proposed highway construction will further increase this supply to make Penang even more car dependent.

In fact, his modelling showed that under the proposed Penang transport masterplan, car modal share will increase from 65 per cent to 72 per cent and public transport modal share will decrease to 12 per cent, well below the Penang state government’s target of 40 per cent public transport modal share by 2030. In other words, the Penang transport masterplan contradicts the state’s transport policy of moving people not cars.

He then argues that the only way to reduce car dependence is to build and improve on an urban rail system. He shows that cities with urban rail systems (trams, LRT or metro) reduce their car use, while those without any urban rail system increase their car dependence. His alternative scenario of constructing more urban rail for Penang will reduce car modal share by 4 per cent (from 66 per cent to 62 per cent) while increasing public transport usage to 20 per cent by 2022.

Penang is at an important crossroads. Which road will it take? Will the state ignore scientific evidence and make policies based on personal whims and populism by over-investing in highways to please car users? Or will it show far-sighted and courageous leadership by building and improving public transport – and educate and lead the public along this new road of sustainable public transport system?

Investing more and more on highways undermines a good public transport system.

Let me end by highlighting two facts. First, the state government cannot dismiss this critical view of the Penang transport masterplan as that of an NGO opposing for the sake of opposition. Roger Teoh is a DAP member and his conclusions are based on hard scientific analysis that the DAP leadership can ignore at its own peril.

Second, my first contact with Roger Teoh was when he wrote in Malaysiakini (22 May 2016) to rebut my earlier article in Malaysiakini (18 May 2016) on why building more roads does not solve traffic congestion. However, after indepth research, and faced with new data, he revised his original position. At least we now agree on the fundamental fact that investing in a first class public transport system, and not roads, is the way forward. He has exhibited a hallmark of true scholarship.

As John M Keynes once said, “When facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

Will the DAP leadership do the same? That is the challenge.

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Landslide-hit Teluk Bahang road reopens
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng officiated at the “opening”.

Eh, I though Humble + Brave Chow Kon Yeow should be the one (who faced the public wrath) to officiate.
Now we see who is the Ai Bin Sien (a narcissistic personality disorder).


why not get angry? centrak gomen policy to help those in need and not doing well. since gilakan sg claim pg is not doing well and in need, why treat them with peanuts…? depend on who, who is gila to give so little after tax collection or pg lang gila to get short changed.


Don’t get angry (depending on who you are angry) when you read this. Just use your vote of conscience: Answered: 12 questions on the Penang economy MP SPEAKS On Oct 19, 2016, in an effort to clear all doubts on my dispute with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng about the true picture of Penang’s the economic performance under DAP, I had requested the Penang Institute, a state-funded think tank, to answer 10 questions. Subsequently, I added two more questions, making it 12 in all. Since the Penang Institute and the Penang government have refused to answer any of… Read more »


can (you) trust liang teck meng(?)


Freedom of Press. Paham kah?
After that use one’s street level understanding to come to a personal conclusion.
Otherwise, it’s no different from BeeEnd.

Ti Wang

Liang Teck Meng writes regularly for China Press and he has only one agenda in mind i.e. To discredit DAP while brown-nosing his Umno master. Lately he is trying to exert his influence within Gerakan – with the hope of getting a ministerial position in BN(?) However most Chinese find him talking a lot without anything constructive. He could be preparing himself to contest in Penang as his Simpang Renggam seat is no longer safe in GE14. Penangites please beware of this guy.


anil out of topic and irrelevant as per judge augustine.


Another break news from GMT. Flood in newly built admin capital of country. No development but why flood suddenly. Where is our pg uni professor and those flood watch? How to eliminate flood in admin capital??


break news and good news. fmt mentions komtar give additional money to seberang majilis to have a compound for strayed, mad and barking dogs. so animal lovers no complain about rabbies. but pg island urgently needs one to restrain most ferrious and loudest bark.

gk ong

Berita Baik:
Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang akan memberikan potongan sebanyak 6% cukai pintu untuk semua hartanah lain termasuk hartanah komersil, tahun 2017.


highways are also needed to transport goods and x buses. from airport to town dont expect bus to make stops all they way. otherwise ond autcan reach india faster than reaching mt komtar. or to reach belum. efficient transport lower cost. singland using auto container loader. one man behinf ipad can control few machines.


Barang Naik hits our public hospitals!
Health Ministry to increase fees for first class and second class wards

Better stay healthy – avoid driving, walk or cycle instead for exercise!


Price hike one after another, while Ringgit is getting devalued each day.
Rakyat didahulukan?

Why should we wait till TN50?
Bersih 5.0 is the way to go!

Ho Say Leow

Roger Teoh should write in at to share more of his PhD knowledge, likewise Dr Lim Mah Hui.
Through exchanges then they will not be too academic in thinking but able to enhance their knowledge not learnt from books.


“… only way to reduce car dependence is to build and improve on an urban rail system.” This is a lie, as BRT proves. There is nothing new about the discovery that reducing cars traffic is important and building more roads is useless. Only capitalist propaganda obsured this fact. In Scandinavia, they clear the bicycle paths of snow before clearing the car roads. China thought that “to be rich is glorious” and that cars were part of that goal. Now, 0.1% of its population are millionaires or billionaires. Unfortunately, their land, water and air is poisoned, and tens millions of… Read more »


Cheers Kopi-O kau kau!


good on you to junk your 4wd. use your kaki to find your kaki


regardless if it’s is highway or public transport I thought it is under federal jurisdiction and not state

james k

On highways, it depends whether it is a state or federal initiative. The LCE expressway is an example of state gov highway project.

the 3 highways by Zenith and the Pan-Island Link under PTMP are all state gov initiatives


In down under. Commonwealth Gomen from gst collected distributed to various states and states planned according to needs. Highway can built by Commonwealth Gomen or states or state with funding from Commonwealth.


Check up the newly redeveloped Bencoolen Street in Singapore for inspiration. When it reopens in the first quarter of 2017, Bencoolen Street will have more cyclist and pedestrian-friendly features in its “car-lite” plan. There will be sheltered linkways from the Downtown Line 3’s new Bencoolen MRT station, tree-lined footpath to nearby facilities and developments, such as Hotel Rendezvous and Manulife Centre. A new dedicated cycling path along Bencoolen Street will also connect Rochor Canal to the planned cycling route along the future North-South Corridor to the Central Business District. A total of 125 bicycle parking lots will be provided… Read more »

Ho Say Leow

Wellington a population of 600K+ about the size of Penang Islanders, yet they have good ground bus system. At any moment, you can see a bus plying the street. Definitely convenient and cost way cheaper than driving own cars.


Pg gomen cannot issue bus, taxi, rail, ferry or lrt licence. They are all under gilakan Commonwealth Gomen. Why they practise cat, meow and meow whereas someone barking at wrong target

anton ng

public transport is time consuming ;unless you have plenty time to spares .


Fossil fuel is easy to consume, but the earth could spare no more greenhouse gas. Not much time to spare in global warming.
Lesson here:


No unless you are using mtr or lrt. They do not share the road with you and me. They have their own road. No red lights or stop and go. But penang forum prefers trams to share with ah pek, animal crossing, mat rampits and crossing all red light areas.

gk ong

Private cars are fuel consuming, unless you have plenty excuses for carbon footprint.


Anton Ng is likely a car salesman, need to cari Makan?