Visiting sustainable transport expert reports findings for Penang



Prof Eric Britton says to Penang:

You have sufficient resources under your control to make virtually all of the improvements which are necessary over the course of the next two years, if you concentrate above all on the management of the transportation assets you already have in place, as opposed to doing as in the past, namely spending large sums on new construction projects to solve your problems. The priority at this point is not to expand supply of unnecessary infrastructure. But rather to manage and use it better. The Transportation Master Plan provides a number of useful guidelines for how to do this.

Visiting international transportation expert reports findings and recommendations for Penang.

In June of this year the chairman of Penang’s Think City initiated a series of conversations with Profesor Eric Britton, Managing Director of Eco Plan International in Paris, distinguished visiting professor of sustainable development, economy and society at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion, and Founder of World Car Free Days, suggesting that he come to Penang for several weeks to study and confer with a broad range of organizations both in the public, private and volunteer sectors to see if he might come up with some new ideas and perspectives for transportation improvements across the State.

These exchanges were supported by more than two dozen meetings, public events, symposia, workshops and other exchanges with a wide variety of organizations across the State which have taken place over the last two weeks, along with a series of Master Classes at the USM in cooperation with the Center for Global Sustainabilty Studies.

This ambitious project is now entering its final stages and on 5 October at 10 o’clock
Professor Britton will be making a final public report and statement to the media and to a number of the people involved in advancing this process, which will take place in Lepau Corner Penang Municipal Park.

Ideas for the future:

After giving attention to, in his words, The good, the Bad, and the Ugly of transport in Penang, when it comes to the behavior and performance of our streets and roads, Professor Britton has reached the following tentative conclusions and recommendations which he is now sharing with the media and all interested. In brief these include:

1. The State of Penang now has in hand virtually everything needed in order to initiate and advance a major sustainable transportation reform over the course of the coming two years. You have the money, the people, the technical capacities, the institutional framework, the autonomy and the ideas and examples needed to make major improvements, many at very low cost and well within the 2015 time horizon of the Transportation Master Plan.

2. You have developed a fine Transportation Master Plan which sets out a number of the institutional and technical reforms needed to improve the performance of all aspects of transportation in the state in terms of: efficiency, environment, economy, resources, energy, and quality of life for all. Treat this is your solid point of departure.

3. You have in place a solid institutional structure, led by the State, supported by the Penang Transport Council, and perhaps above all to be led by the dynamic Municipal Councils on the island (MPPP) and the mainland (MPSP). All of which supported by one of the most well developed network of civil society and public interest groups in all of Asia. These are huge assets for your transformational program.

4. You have sufficient resources under your control to make virtually all of the improvements which are necessary over the course of the next two years, if you concentrate above all on the management of the transportation assets you already have in place, as opposed to doing as in the past, namely spending large sums on new construction projects to solve your problems. The priority at this point is not to expand supply of unnecessary infrastructure. But rather to manage and use it better. The Transportation Master Plan provides a number of useful guidelines for how to do this.

5. Upon due consultation with a considerable range of the key organizations and actors in the sector, with the help of my colleagues at Think City and all those who have so generously given of their time and ideas over these last weeks, we have come up with a series of 21 specific project initiatives which can be done quickly, and which are entirely under the control of state and local governments.

6. Finally and in closing I would also suggest that you consider opening up working links with colleagues in the governments of the following five outstanding cities,two European and three Asia-Pacific, each of whom have been doing some interesting things that you may well wish to learn more about, and at the same time share your Mew Mobility ideas and experience with them. On this short list of working city partners, I would suggest that you consider

Utrecht, The Netherlands
Strasburg, France
Suwon, Korea
Adelaide, Australia

I have spent an invigorating and instructive two and a half weeks in Penang and would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks for all of the wonderful cooperation and the great ideas that I received from so many people and organizations with whom I have the honor to meet. It has been an outstanding learning and life experience, and I leave George Town with great confidence in your ability to meet the challenges that now lie ahead.

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Are you aware that a British expat in Singapore s mocking Singapore public transportation as a stench for poor people?

Somehow snobbish rich people snub public transportation and insult the poor.


moot, LGE is not telling us many things and unfortunately only a few people dare to dig deep and expose the real story and situation. If you read the press releases, you will find that all the procurement will be handled by the China firm. You see what happens is the China companies fund the projects, import all materials from China and use mostly China companies. To satisfy the local politicians, they will partner with politically well connected locals and throw a few bones for them to chew on. And then they will reap billions in profit when they develop… Read more »


Calvin, your’s very insightful. But the leadership at Komtar Tower doesn’t give a damn about our concerns. Where is the … Local Plan? All they care about is Cosmopolitan Penang that will showcase their political portfolio comes every GE. To those who are worshipping-frenzied minded, this is stupidity at the core. Imagine if you are not the 1% richie, any change that will affect lifestyles & economic affordability is of grave concern. Penang is not SingLand, HK or Macau. To develop a state, politicians & planners need to understand the socio-cultural & economic potential of the local people & environment,… Read more »

Tua Tiao Liao

i am not that 1%. i just went to Gurney Paragon official opening today and i hope you do not step in there otherwise you need more kow kow kopi to overcome your frustrations with the new Gurney Paragon so-called tagline “Indulge In The Heart Of New Penang” as if old penang folks have no hearts at all !


Hi, Tua Tiao Liao. Penang is developing the way of global cosmopolitan BingChui, in the process creating a class division between the 1% & the average+have nots. Since 2008, the at-first-exhiliration-of-development-at-last-in-Penang seemed to justify the risks of electing a gomen that promised a CHANGE for the better (for every Penangite). But what I as a Boh Tua Kang am seeing just turns my stomach inside out with great dislikes of some development affecting many of us Boh Tua Tay. It may look ‘promising’ on the surface but if one lives day by day, seeing the rapid changes, one is truly… Read more »

Wee Chin

Gurney Paragon is the new happening place for the rich in Penang?
A place to window shop but do not envy those who can spend there.


tunglang, Well said and heartfelt comments indeed! It is indeed heartbreaking to see the CHANGE that the masters have granted us – especially to the lau langs like us. Liveable City = Playground of well-heeled jet setters Cosmopolitan City = Rich Foreigners are welcomed ,Penangites go to mainland and Kedah Penang Paradigm = More mega-projects Penang leads = Selling public assets for short term gains Look at the situation now = prices of houses are sky-high, the lands are being sold off to greedy developers, hills are flattened, FDI plunging, affordable housing neglected, well meaning NGOs and activists treated as… Read more »

zam zam

forget nasi kandar penang come to Kedah for authentic nasi lemak and peaceful kampung style natural setting padi fields minus excesses concrete and plastic !

just visit penang once in a while to shop at paragon ok lah.


Oblady Bank want to keep me as profitable but punishable (anytime) client, a loyal customer since 1991. WTF! Giving me an opportunity to extend home loan @ attractively lower interest rate. I am too happy to say “No”. Since I got my EPF, I will clear all debts & start living a free man. Living a downshifted lifestyle is an enlightening experience without feeling the envy of the Joneses since I will not be shackled to indebtedness & worries. Not having weekly Char Hor Fun or Hokkien Mee is not a disappointment but an ability to control desires. In fact,… Read more »

Mr X

Penang got Owl Museum (Penang Hill) and recently Camera Museum in heritage area.

This is out of personal entrepreneurial efforts that eventually gained approval from state government.

If one wants to establish a street food museum, one must be passionate and to start from scratch (don’t just talk about $ financing alone). Once take off, i think many corporate sponsors will inevitably want to associate with it.

Just a thought to kickstart someone’s dream (better no wishful thinking lah).

Don Anamalai

Speaking of good food in Kedah, while in Alor Setar, please try the famous and acclaimed NASI LEMAK ONG at Jln Putra. I can vouch that it is as good as Nasi Kandar in Penang, if not better. Although the owner is a Chinese learning the trade from mamak, the food is halal and was featured in numerous local TV show.

Ms Y

Going to live in Belum area depends if your oher fmily members want to come along to “hulu” environment. Younger generation once tasted the cosmopolitan lifestyle cannot live without it.
So looks like Kedah mainland like SP, A Star or Kulim might be better choices as these places lack high phase developments yet can live by comfortably away from consumerism presssure.

don anamalai

Mukhriz when interviewed on Agenda Awani said Kedah may be slow in development (compared to Penang) but the quality of life is good.


I completely agree that the Penang govt can do a lot of things to promote public transport and sustainable policies. One of the advantage of Georgetown is that it is smaller so the state can easily make the city center car free and provide free bus service within the CBD and car parks outside the CBT zone. While cycling might not be practical,MPPP can build covered paths ways. They should also clear all five foot ways of hawkers. Instead the state is willing to spend billions on projects that won’t solve the traffic problems but make it worse like tunnels… Read more »


Actually I wonder what will happens to Penang localise INFLATION rates when those mega project money pouring in. It may sounds like a few klse cronies company getting the contract and channel part of the over supply money around the country. However, to cut some cost , material will definitely sourcing locally, and that is how inflation shoot up in place like JB.

For place that cannot absorb the excessive money supply, “localised” inflation will happens. I just wonder, can Penang state current production able to absorb the money supplies?

Parking double is a problem but its worse when people are so lazy that they will drive through a no entrance even though there are cars coming in. Attitude is a problems in our country not just civil but political as well.


Penang should impose electronic road pricing for the city area, use the money collected to fund public bus to make it more frequent and cheaper.

Siew Kut

this suggestion makes sense (and create tonnes of cents/sen for penang gomen) … a bold step to discourage car ownership and use public transport which needs to be effective and efficient at same time.


Penangities don’t walk and they won’t even if you give them world class pathway. You only can see cars parked on it.They won’t even walk within shaded area after park the car and we expect them to use pedestrian way.Just drive into any shopping malls in Penang you will understand what I’m trying to say.With vast development in island no developer provide enough parking space or it will be very expensive. So people just preferred to park at the side of road or wait in the car with engine running. By saving few ringgits in parking they end up burning… Read more »


It is all about planning. It seems like everywhere in Bolehland, Penang government are yet to enact the mentality to use bicycle, there is virtually NO BICYCLE stand for anyone who which to use bicycle. If well plan, facilities become norm, it will encourage people to use bicycle, then the state government can start CURBING the motor vehicle by imposing high parking tariff. With proper planning in place (bicycle stand, lock, cover, dedicated lanes, insurance, even bus that with bicycle carrier for “hopping traveling”,etc ) , then you can make demand and supply automatic work : pay the high parking… Read more »


Suggestions like Utrecht etc is difficult to copy for Malaysia. As Dutchman I think that the climate in Malaysia is too hot for people to walk. More cities in the Netherlands are closed for cars. With a bus you can travel to the city (Can be free). It has also effect on a better health and environment. Before all these changes could happened, people had to be educated. A change of mindset was needed. To suggest this example for Malaysia it has to start with changing attitude, so long Malaysian want to park the car before the door, single or… Read more »


Can’t agree with you there. In SG which is even hotter, leave my car to the wife and walk all the time and take buses even when there are MRT stations everywhere. I only take cabs and MRT during business hours and even then if I can get away with it, I still walk and take the bus. I keep towels in my office to wipe all day and apply deodarant. Most people you meet and deal with, are not that important for you to smell like fresh air all day which most people aren’t in the first place. Anyway,… Read more »


I agree with this. Despite the heat, it is quite easy to walk in Singapore with well designed and maintained walkways. I never owned car when I was there, for the was no need for it. In fact you can get to most places in Singapore with MRT but by using bus. The only reason I resort to MRT was due to time factor – its faster.

semuanya OK kot

Agree. Anyone who thinks it is hot here should (a) spend a few weeks in India, Thailand and evn temperate countries during summer (b) think hard whether they can afford degenrative disease. Any related issues can easily be solved by (a) covered walkways (b) feeder mini-buses (c) bicycle paths (d) motorised bicycles for those who rally need them.

But then, sustainable is a bad word for the capitalist gods. Do we want to attract drone strikes?

Don Anamalai

Look at the smog situation in Beijing during its golden week holiday.
Same situation will happen in Malaysia if we do not curb vehicle growth.

Important to improve public transportation, but the ultimate challenge is to convince people, especially the young generation, to forgo personal cars and adopt public transportation.


Oh yeah, it is too “hot” to walk. Tell me, how do you survive all this year in Malaysia, how you growth up, what happens to your school time. Tell me, you growth up in Genting/Cameron/fraser highland/hill? Bus is not perfect, it just an alternative. If we don’t watch out, the poorly maintain Rapidkl will shoot up more polluted air from its diesel engine (which is reality now) than vehicle that use petrol. It need a driver, which again susceptible to management issue. It seems people just refuse to use their brain. A 18th century invention is good enough to… Read more »


Singapore is a good example. The weather there is the same, sometimes even hotter than in Pg and yet ppl can walk for kilometers on end without problems. In fact, like Bigjoe, they prefer to walk so long as facilities like shaded walkways are provided. It is not wrong to build highways, Sg has a lot of that too but before you spend so much money building a mega project, there is no harm in first spending a little bit of money to do cheap things that will improve the quality of life of Penangites. Where vehicles park or double… Read more »


Yes, people will use the best mode of transport available. If they don’t have the option of using public transport, how can we hope to encourage it? Having Rapid Penang alone is not sufficient. There are many many things Penang govt can do and do it quickly and cheaply. It is downright dangerous to walk in Penang not just because of a lack of walk paths. Unlike in SG, I don’t think we should build more highways since we don’t have the land. Penang could be bigger but SG have more free usable land as they are more concentrated due… Read more »


The money, the institutional framework and autonomy? He figured all these out in the few weeks he was here? Does he know the state can’t even have its own bus system without Fed govt approval? Does he know about the state is allowed to collect other taxes and fees without Fed approval? They can’t even import new equipment/buses without AP under the Fed govt?

Like to see what his plans in detail really called for. If he says just get rid of all the cars in two years, LOL..


Anil, the Pg General Hospital carparks (many) are always full. I once spoke to the staffs at Blood Donation dept & they told me the teething problems of finding visitor parking spaces was partly due to some drivers parking their vehicles for free while they took buses to work in the city. How extensive I can’t be sure. This is but a double-edged situation: 1) genuine hospital visitors & out-patients are inconvenienced. 2) a slight % reduction of vehicles entering the city. With Penang island lands so sky-high valued & speculatively priced, what’s left for available free public parking spaces… Read more »


I don’t know who this expert is but I tend to agree with you. Bigjoe is right that the state does not collect income tax and cannot run its bus system without federal govt approval. But my question is this. Why do we have to look at big projects like a bus system or MRT first? Why doesn’t the state concentrate on the things which are fully within its powers and is affordable, even cheap. For example, set up pedestrian walkways as shown above on all roads at least within George Town. Remove stalls, cars, bikes obstructing pavements and walkways… Read more »


I don’t buy the excuse that the state’s hands are tied and they need the Fed approval to implement transport policies. That the state budget is tiny and not enough to fund mega projects is an asinine argument since they have many other ways to get the necessary financial support. If they implement billion dollar mega projects, I am sure they can find a few million ringgit. Though I do hope they don’t sell state assets like land to do so. As for bus service, why would the state wants to start its own? Wouldn’t it be better to work… Read more »


Yes we have everything beyond reasonable doubt.
rajraman.We also have every Politician and Business people who only consider spending billion more for glory.Don’t spend money by billions don’t make money and Legacy.