From Sustainable Penang WhatsApp 24/7 public dialogue of this date:
1. From Jeh Haur Chan
THE TRAM’S REVIVAL
30 years ago in France, only 3 tram lines, in Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing, Saint-Etienne and Marseille, had miraculously escaped the widespread eradication of the tram. The first modern tram line was opened in 1985, in Nantes. Thanks to pioneer urban projects (Grenoble in 1987, Paris Ile-de-France in 1992, Strasbourg and Rouen in 1994), the local governments of many cities were convinced that their strategy for urban modernization could be carried out by a tram project.
As of today, thirty French cities have a tramway service, or are about to, making this country a unique case in the world, considered as a benchmark by foreign professionals, particularly in North Africa, Spain or Japan.
2. From Liim Thean-Heng
You reckon we should bring those “old” trams back?
3. From Charles Chia
Are you joking LTH? Surely you have seen the modern trams in France?
I’m 100% convinced that trams are suitable for George Town. It blends with the narrow streets and heritage buildings of GT. To hell with the monorail! There will be problems. Which solution doesn’t have problems. Like all ideas to be implemented, we need the political will.
Don’t talk one thing in front of the public but do something else behind the public, then give excuses…
4. From Jeh Haur Chan
5. From Eric Britton
Thank you Jeh Haur Chan. An excellent reminder. And Charles Chia’s point is well taken.
As someone who has lived right in the middle of France’s “forgetting” its traditional tramways, and then “remembering” them two decades later I am pleased to hear growing interest in modern trams in Penang — which incidentally provide not only mobility but also a concrete, harmonious, visible means for knitting a city and its various parts together into one harmonious whole.
But the French experience — and we could very easily organize “virtual visits” to tramways in a cross section of French cities — is and was not to jump to tramways out of the blue. They began to find their place but only as the various cities first started to give high preference and access to buses and other forms of more space-efficient transport (with reserved lanes, privileged access to certain parts of the city, priority at traffic signals, various forms of IT and architectural support to facilitate rapid boarding/deboarding, public notification of next stops, lane sharing with bicycles, emergency vehicles, taxis, etc. . . All with strict enforcement of the new rules of the road.)
What this amounts to is good critical planning of what we might think of as a kind of “pre-BRT”). Which was exactly the way that in French cities the tramway found its place. We are so lucky to have theirs and other leading examples to learn from, study, discuss, adapt and then to implement within a transport policy in Penang which is as frugal as it is smart and effective.
What’s the lesson we can learn from that? Once we have identified a priority need,whatever it might be, then figure out how to satisfy it with a Better, Faster, Cheaper way of getting the job done.
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About the editor:
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Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at https://goo.gl/9CJXTh and @ericbritton
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