Waiting for Rapid Penang’s GPS display boards


Rapid Penang can track the movement of its buses from its control centre in Lorong Kulit

Rapid Penang is now equipped with GPS (Global Positioning System), which enables it to track the movement of its buses around Penang.

The next phase involves setting up display boards in selected locations which would enable the public to know when the next bus is due to arrive. When I visited the Rapid Penang head office a few weeks ago, I was told that they had submitted an application to set up these display boards, but I am not sure what’s holding it up. I was impressed with its chief executive officer Azhar Ahmad, who appeared competent and friendly and seemed to be thinking ahead.

I hope the state government and Rapid Penang, which is owned by the federal government, will work together to implement this as soon as possible in the interest of commuters.

In the long run, each bus-stop should have a display board, telling passengers how long more they have to wait for the bus to arrive.

But it is also important to get the basics right. Simple bus route maps – with major stops indicated – and bus schedules at each bus-stop.

Rapid Penang is supposed to take delivery of another 200 new buses over the coming months. Contracts for new buses must be transparent and awarded through open tender. Let’s hope these are reliable buses equipped with facilities catering to people with disabilities. But for this to work, bus-stops and pavements leading to the bus-stops must also be disabled friendly. The approach pavements and the bus-stops must pass the ‘wheelchair test’.

The overall structure of bus services in Penang needs to be improved. How to handle all those private bus firms? No one can deny that Rapid Penang, a federal government-owned entity, has forced the private companies – long providing deplorable services to the public – to raise their level of service.

In the long run, there should be a state-owned bus corporation – with regulatory enforcement powers – managing all the bus operators in the state, whether public or private. The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board has not performed; so its regulatory function should be taken over by this new state-owned bus corporation. Rapid Penang itself should be transferred from the federal government to fall under the purview of the new state-owned bus corporation. A flagship Rapid Penang service should be the core of the bus service in Penang and be the benchmark for private bus companies to emulate.

Why a state-owned bus corporation? It is only the local authorities in Penang that would know best what the local needs are and which routes are desperately needed – whether profitable or not.

Above all, public transport should be seen as an essential public service. It is a vital component in reducing congestion on the roads and our reliance on fossil fuels.

A director of a multinational corporation told me that much of the congestion on the existing Penang Bridge could be reduced if there was a shuttle bus service transporting commuters to and from major bus hubs on the mainland and the island. It’s worth a thought.

Please help to support this blog if you can.

Read the commenting guidlelines for this blog.
Notify of

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I don’t know how useful this system would be to the average Penangnite, but since they have the system up, they should stick it on the internet too. So for those of us who are comfortable with the internet, we can calculate when to leave our house to the bus stop. Also, they really should revamp the website so that it’s easier for people to understand where their stops are…instead of just a name of the stop. Also they should have a website that can help you plan a trip. I know google has a really good system up that… Read more »


GPS only tells you where the bus is.
It doesn’t make buses run on time.

Please focus on getting buses run on time and get the municipal government to work together with the bus companies on this.
In Japan buses had been running on time since time immemorial.
Long before GPS was invented.


I agree with Kean. Dont have to waste money on all the hi-techs. Build sheltered bus stands and be punctual according to the schedules. Clean buses and curtious drivers. This is well proven in UK and it works. A result of good management!!! (uncorrupted, of course). Also, we need a feeder service within each housing estate to the main routes to complement the network. Most people will then not mind switching to public transport.


In urban areas, buses are like cars. What is the point of telling the arrival if they are caught in the jam? The GPS system is only good if they are in the busway (dedicated roadway for buses only). Try those buses in Brisbane. Those main bus stops have sign boards like the airport telling them the expected time of arrival. Totally agree that the Transport Mininstry should solve the road problems by having more bus lanes and more buses. Naturally people will abandon cars when the price of pump goes up. If there are more buses at 15min frequency,… Read more »


there is a general bus map routes with major stops inside the bus itself. at bus stops there is only the sign mentioning which bus nos. stop there. when rapid penang was first introduced in penang, they came out with a booklet of the routes with the mention of ALL stops. route maps are also available at its website. methink if there is a state owned bus corp., not only the local authorities should sit there but they should call bus commuters to sit in and help in the planning because it is only bus commuters themselves who goes through… Read more »


Looks like Google Earth there. I wonder how many millions they will charge to inform passengers that their bus will be late. But at least we now know how late. Brilliant!


i guess they have to find a way to prevent these boards from getting stolen in the first place 😀



Looks like the bus system is slowly improving. I would agree with Kean that the focus should be making sure the bus arrives on time.

Spending money on sophisticated display system only means additional unecessary capital and operating expenditure to set up and mantain the display system; which is just going to be destroyed and stolen anyway.

Living in Perth, the bus systems here arrives on time and just a static schedule is placed at the bus stop. check out http://www.transperth.com.au to see their site.


Yes, Anil. Get the basics right. That’s the problem plaguing our service industry.

They’d rather spend on advertising than focus on the service they’re providing. We consumers end up with a double whammy: bad service and stupid adverts.

So far, there isn’t really anything bad to say about Rapid Penang. At the very least, you don’t get fumes seeping into your wound up, air conditioned car. And if they carry out proper maintenance, we won’t end up with with hearses plying our routes.


“In the long run, each bus-stop should have a display board, telling passengers how long more they have to wait for the bus to arrive”

There are display boards in Kl Sentral telling passengers how long more they have to wait for the bus to arrive. Sadly, they are never accurate!


PJ CANDLE VIGIL 19 OCT 08 “There’s just no words to described how I feel” “Its wondferful” That’s how our lady Marina says it… She’s right on! Small crowds of people were there much earlier though we arrived at about about 8pm. The first thing you will see are some beautiful coloured ballons. Great! I suppose this is a symbol to set RPK free as well, says my partner whom I got acquinted during RPK’s court case. 8.15pm. Ppl just coming in groups and family as well. Someone already spell the words with candles “NO 2 ISA FREE RPK”. People… Read more »

Truth Seeker


When I was in Scandinavia, I was impressed with their very reliable public transport system.

Bus schedules are displayed at every stop.

Many times I found the buses were already waiting for passengers before their scheduled time.

One could get “frozen” there while waiting, if they were to be as unreliable as our bus transport services here.

I guess that’s one big difference between 1st World and 3rd World Mentality.



May I know how you get to have the honour of visiting the control centre?


Sorry to be on this thread.

Watch out for latest PJ candle 19th Oct 2008
report here.

Be back hopefully by 11pm to post report.


What the public want is not a sophisticated tracking and display system which will tell us when the next bus is coming. All we want is these buses to COME & GO ON TIME, as per schedule. No point spending millions installing all these stuffs if they still CANNOT ARRIVE as per schedule. We’ll still be late to work or we still have to get up early just to wait for buses.

Until the most basic stuff is being solved, please do not waste tax payer money on unnecessary stuffs. Or should I said, stop FEEDING CRONIES with our money!