While Penang is thinking once again about its transportation arrangements, we are hearing a lot of late about BRT and tramways — and rightfully. Both a huge improvement over earlier proposals for a mad spaghetti mix of intrusive monorails, elevated LRT/LRV systems, Sky Cabs hanging uselessly in the horizon, over-built road infrastructure projects to serve and encourage yet more car traffic, and a backbreaking proposal for a sea tunnel that would bring yet more traffic into the island and in the process extend and multiply today’s traffic mess and associated inconveniencies
But before we make up our minds let’s also give a thought to another less well known mobility option, the Mobilien. It may be just what you were looking for.
How were the leading minds in Penang looking at the challenges of sustainable transport back at the turn of the century? Did you know this? In many ways considerably better than is the case today. They were lucid, they had focus, and they stuck with the issues at hand..
To bring you into the picture (above) let’s have a look at a presentation made back in 1999 introducing a collaborative civil society program at the time, called STEP – Sustainable Transport Environment for Penang. If you look closely you will note that just about all of the issues and recommendations that were being discussed back then, are every bit as topical today. But somehow we lost almost two decades.
What happened? Why did not this enlightened program take off at the time. We shall be looking at that closely in the coming weeks and seeing if we can learn at least some of the lessons of the past.
It is amazing how words can pop up and associate in a situation in which a number of people with different ideas and orientations come together to see if they can put their fingers on some elusive but important truth.
Over the past months as a civil society consensus critiquing the State government’s transport plan in Penang (and, no less important, the process behind it) has slowly taken shape, this short phrase is starting to crop up often enough to serve as a common motto, a watchword, a rallying point to give high visibility to the ideas and proposals that are better adapted to the important work that remains to be done
When we speak of the path to s sustainable transport system and sustainable Penang today we now speak with a unified voice of Better, Faster, Cheaper. Let’s have a look.
We all know the story about The Blind Men and the Elephant?
Fine, but do you know the one about The Blind Men and the Penang Transport Master Plan?
From the Archives. George Town Malaysia. Sept 23 , 2013 http://themalaymailonline.com/ —
By Opalyn Mok
A predilection for cars means that 80 per cent of transport funding is used to cater for the needs of 20 per cent of society, according to a public transport proponent today.
World Car Free Day founder Eric Britton pointed out this uneven distribution in public expenditure was an issue in many modern cities, including Penang.
“It should be the other way around where only 20 per cent funding is needed and it can fulfil the needs of 80 per cent of the society,” he said during a media focus group under the Sustainable Penang: Toward a New Mobility Agenda two-week programme this morning.
In a bid to change that, Britton is here for the two-week Sustainable Penang: Towards a New Mobility Agenda.
This carefully compiled seasonal report from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute is a fine tool and up to date source guide for researchers and policy makers worldwide. We are pleased to present it in its entirety here, together with references you will find handy to take these entries further. Thanks for your fine continuing contributions Todd.
Bangkok Skytrain: Note the huge investment in public transport to solve the problem. Oops!
Public transport in Kuala Lumpur: A paradigm shift
“MAY 19 — The Malaysian Government has established an objective of improving public transport in urban areas around the country as a core to stimulate economic growth and relieve traffic congestion. In order to achieve the stated objectives, the government has allocated funds worth up to RM180 billion to be invested in new public transportation systems.
“For example, this commitment can be reflected on the approval of large scale public transportation projects such as the MRT Line 2, LRT 3, HSR (High Speed Rail) KL-Singapore and BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) on the Federal Highway. The shift in focus from building more roads and highways back to improving public transport will no doubt be welcome to the urban population.
“However, despite these colossal public transportation investments, have we gone far enough to ensure public transport usage in Kuala Lumpur is a feasible alternative option to car use? I believe that there are several elements that can be addressed to further improve the attractiveness and effectiveness of the Greater Kuala Lumpur Public Transport Master Plan.”
This set of references in support of the sustainable Penang project, and in particular the component involving civil society participation in determining the future of Penang’s transport/mobility system, has been carefully pieced together over the last two years, in response to a system on the part of the government that was providing little information to support citizen enquiries into the program which is also referred to by them as the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP). The latest information on the government program in support of this will be found at http://pgmasterplan.penang.gov.my
Of Mice, of Men and . . . of Penang
When I first visited Penang back in late summer 2013 in response to an invitation by Think City, I had several weeks to profit from a steady diet of site visits, lectures, master classes and intense skull sessions with ten different key groups (including media, local government, transport operators, auto industry and lobby, regulators and police, gender balance, cycling and pedestrian groups, civil society, the universities, and finally “hacking sustainable mobility”). All of which, as I travelled around both the island and mainland, gave me an excellent occasion to start to get a feel for both “halves” of Penang. Not a city, not a state, but in fact an in many ways typical and varied metropolitan area.
The more you solve the problem the bigger the PROBLEM gets. Even in Mouse Town.
Battle Royal: Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses
It was late Spring 1958 (as I best recall) in New York City when a young Eric Britton, just out of the US Army and about to dig into the Graduate Faculties of Columbia, was – as young men will do — checking out the action in Washington Square Park in the Village on a warm day. When he ran into two little kids wearing a sandwich sign saying something like “Save the Square!”. The kids handed me a pamphlet and explained that they were there to help their mother, who was just over there (they pointed).
And that was how I first met Mrs. Jane Jacobs, hard at work on an at-first very lonely effort to save this precious bit of NYC public space from the depredations of Robert Moses plan to run an urban highway extension of Fifth avenue over the concrete remains of what would once have been a beautiful and much used public park. It was clearly going to be a losing cause, but she decided to stick it out. And as she did others, unknowns and celebrities, gradually started to get behind her cause.
No no. Stay tuned. The mice have not said their last words. This battle has yet to be joined. Stay tuned.
It’s getting late in Penang so we cannot read the whole story to you tonight. So we have to stop here when the well-connected Beaver Construction company showed up, without any prior public notice, to start the work on the road. And the first victims were, of course, the trees.