Just a week or so ago, I wrote about the fact that financing, constructing and behaviour changing are three different things. Here’s that article:Financing, constructing and behaviour changing.Three different things really. I was referring to the Penang Transport Master Plan, specifically the LRT. Even if financing has no issues and construction starts and ends on time, that last part which is the behaviour changing would need a more thorough plan. Just because it’s built does not mean the people would all dump their cars at home and take it. Remember, convenience of having a public transport may be trumped by the inconvenience of having to walk a couple of hundred metres to reach the nearest station or even the waiting period for transit buses to the station. Somehow, Penangites are very used to driving. Yes, they hate jams but from my survey a few years ago, none is willing to drop the convenience of driving just yet. Unless of course the Penang state government has policies to support this LRT plan. Singapore can be one super-duper example to follow. Make it ‘too expensive’ to drive is one of them.
Then, I come across this article which is an open debate between a PhD postgraduate student from the Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London. (Ranked 8th in the WORLD by QS World University Ranking) and former former MBSP councillor Joshua Woo, “LRT safer than trams for Penang”. Please refer to the full article in FreeMalaysiToday here. I do not wish to comment on who’s more ‘correct’ but here are a few facts for everyone to digest. It says that a it was recently highlighted that there are around 1.4 million motorcycles and 1.1 million cars in Penang. Taking the bus will take at least two times longer relative to motorcycles and cars. It was also shown by the the Halcrow report clearly showed that BRTs and trams are significantly cheaper to build, maintain and operate versus the LRT.
The writer also shared that the annual ridership for the Penang LRT is forecasted to be significantly higher than most MRT lines in London, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur on a per capita basis within its first year of operations. If this forecasted ridership fails, then the Penang state government will have at least RM1.2 billion in loss of ticket revenues over 10 years.This will threaten the financial viability of the LRT project and the state’s financial health. As at today, no one from the Penang government has come out to refute these findings. The writer shared that with the 96.8% car modal share in Penang, it’s worthy to improve transport safety and reduce traffic congestion is to increase Penang’s public transport modal share from 3.2% to a more respectable level of between 10% and 20%. Currently, the Penang state government has set itself a target of achieving a 40% public transport modal share by 2030. This will most likely not be achieveable because the SRS PTMP is heavily focused on roads over public transport. Full article for reference here.