So this was where I was. While much of George Town was in the midst of world heritage celebrations, I decided to check out a group of youth at Speakers’ Square who decided to mark the day by launching a campaign for a better masterplan for public transport in Penang.
Many young people spoke up at the gathering, which lasted over at hour. They expressed concerned over the massive 4,500-acre land reclamation, which would be about 20 times larger than the Sri Tanjung Pinang reclamation under phase 1 – larger than Forest City in Johor.
Others pointed out that a single LRT line from Komtar to the airport under phase 1 of the SRS plan was not going to improve public transport elsewhere in the state. Mainland Penang especially would have to wait much longer to see major improvements in sustainable mobility. Some said significant immediate improvements could be made to the existing bus service, cycling infrastructure and pedestrian walkways.
Among the main organisers of today’s event were independent filmmaker Andrew Ng, youth activist Stephanie Kee and former Pulau Tikus state assembly member Yap Soo Huey. Also present was Cameron Kang, a young public transport enthusiast just appointed as councillor with the Seberang Perai Municipal Council. A representative of SRS Consortium was among the small crowd at the scene.
More weekly discussions at Speakers’ Square have been scheduled. The idea is to build on this to engage with the youth on the transport proposals as they are the ones who will have to live with its impact – for better or for worse – and bear any financial and operational losses that the state might be saddled with.
Meanwhile, another young person, Roger Teoh, a PhD postgraduate student at the Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London, has written another piece listing out the unanswered questions since 2016:
Given that the car modal share for Penang currently stands at 96.8%, how can the state government hope to achieve its 40% public transport modal share target by 2030 if they continue to focus heavily on roads and private vehicles?
While the three proposed highways are only expected to resolve traffic congestion for inter-urban trips, what plans does the state government have in place to resolve localised traffic congestion within urban centres?
What is the logic behind the argument of the “PTMP improving city liveability by promoting the use of personal vehicles” when recent health studies clearly show that an increased exposure to vehicle-emitted nitrogen oxides (NOx) and soot particles greatly increase the risk of cardiopulmonary diseases and premature mortality?
Why did the state choose the SRS-recommended LRT and monorail as the preferred public transport systems, as opposed to trams and BRTs as recommended in the state’s officially adopted Halcrow Plan, without doing any comparative financial cost-benefit analysis of the different systems?
What is the calculated Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR) for the present-form PTMP proposed by the Penang state government and alternative PTMP proposed by Penang Forum? Have they been compared?
Given that the BCR is the most fundamental metric used in feasibility studies to compare different projects, it would be very alarming if the Penang state government failed to provide us with a comparison of the BCR values between the present form and alternative PTMP (proposed by Penang Forum).
The Penang state government approved the spending of over RM300 million for feasibility and detailed design studies for the tunnel and three highways on Penang island, projects that were deemed as low priority by its own transport consultant study, Halcrow. But it does not see the need to spend a small amount to do a comparative financial feasibility study on the different public transport systems before choosing the LRT and monorail, which happen to be the most expensive to construct, operate and maintain. What is with the rush to approve Penang’s biggest infrastructure project to date when these simple questions cannot be adequately answered?
Read his full article on FMT. It is good that young people are taking an interest in the Penang transport masterplan and SRS Consortium’s lavish spending spree. Hopefully, their questions will prompt the state government to call for a much-needed independent review.