Sustainable Penang’s Open Citizen Discussion Forum: Archives Dec. 2015-Oct. 2016


Serendipity: The Happy Surprise

On 14 Dec. 2015: Mr. Lim Thean Heng, Chief Engineer, for reasons of his own, decided to created a WhatsApp group, “Sustainable Penang”. The results of his successful initiative can be accessed online via, and from there clicking the menu to Sustainable Penang. The forum is open to invited participants, and thus far has almost two hundred members, roughly 20% or so from outside Penang.  One of the main targets of the forum is to get feedback and views on the state government ‘s work in preparation of a Penang Transport Master Plan, on which there are many opposing views, including in the most informed public and reaches of civil society. But that is not the only thing that gets talked about there.

Did you realise that our WhatsApp forum is also a valuable research tool?


Governance, Government and Civil Society

Many government agencies, while well prepared to make presentations of their plans and issues, have difficulty in getting a full range of critical views and useful feedback through the usual public meetings. This phenomenon has been well and frequently explored in fact and in the literature. It is no great mystery.

But what this WhatsApp tool offers – with all its limitations – is an open forum, 24 hours a day, seven days a week — for exactly the kinds of discussions, contributions, arguments, sometime disagreements, accusations, even occasional insults, and in summary, the very kind of grassroots feedback that government officials and agencies in a democratic country so badly need to have from an educated, prepared population. The more than half a million words-plus that follow here offer concrete evidence of how this can be put to work, albeit in a very simple way.

To join the forum, we suggest a quick email to Engineer Lim at, indicating your name, organizational or NGO affiliation, and the particular areas of the sustainability agenda (transport, heritage, real estate, environment, economy, etc.) which bring you to the forum. 

– – – > Access full report here –

Putting the Forum to work:

But ten months later, our discussion site is starting to get a bit cumbersome. As of today it already accounts for going on almost two thousand pages of materials and well more than half a million words of exchanges as you will see here — and it is growing vigorously every day as people continue to join in the discussions and make their voices heard. The exchanges are extremely varied and not all of them can be counted as key materials for these policy and planning exchanges.  Fortunately, we have the tools to turn it into a useful resource for those who are interested and resourceful enough to take advantage of the exchanges.

The temptation with this sort of site is for the reader to read it once, perhaps react and then move on to other things. But there are other, better, more useful ways of putting this toolboxto work.

Consultation of the website content is not an easy process when one is on line. So to make it easier and more useful for us, we have produced a series of “archives edition”, reporting the full content of all the exchanges to this date since opening day on 14 December 2015 when Lim Thean-Heng had the brilliant idea of creating a WhatsApp site to encourage broad discussion of what is going on in Penang in all of the events and processes that underlie the work in progress to create a sustainable transport agenda for Penang for the years immediately ahead.

What you have here now is the full text of all the exchanges to date.  Since it is presented in MS Word form, it is entirely searchable which is going to come in very handy when you want to see what XXX had to say about YYY (see below on key words searching).



The volume is freely available to all in the Penang New Mobility Public Library site which is part of the program Sustainable Penang: Toward a New Mobility Agenda at  We invite your critical remarks and suggestions which you can send to Eric Britton at  We intend to update from time to time as seems useful.


Searching the site:

The 1803 pages now in the database can of course be consulted online and in the same order in which they appear, but there are alternatives: searching the discussions through key words.  To see if this works satisfactorily we have run a number of key word searches, which call up all the exchanges in which those words appear. Here is a sample of what we found.

  • Frequent topics and references: Transport (2088), cars (546), bus (1160), heritage (435), (monorail (522), parking (344), pedestrian (324), traffic (639), PTMP (265), public transport (427), mobility (330), CM (207), cost (279),
  • Less frequently used: cyclist (139), Master Plan (104),  strategy (167), enforcement (184), Land use (17), trishaw (127), taxi (39), civil society (59), job creation (10), BRT (70), women (23), Penangite (104)
  • Rare to zero mentions: Climate, handicap, security, equality, the Commons, fairness, vulnerable, rural, affordable, just, disabled, trucks, goods, freight, shelter, externalities, carbon


“Media omitted:

Sorry, but this text edition does not reproduce the very large number of images which are available in the online version. To have included them would have made the document impossibly large for easy sharing .



Often when governments or indeed other sponsors organize meetings, public or private, for presentations and discussions, they tend to try to keep control, for better or worse, of the agenda and the discussions. This is not at all the case of the exchanges that are reported here, as you will quickly see. In addition to wise counsel, and often hard questions, you will also find yourself confronted with poor jokes, mysterious asides and more or less dubious claims. That comes with the territory, if your objective is, which is our case, to hear the voice of the people.

So welcome aboard this latest edition of our Citizen Forum, use your fast research tools and good habits to work your way through this jungle of ideas and views, and hopefully come up with some inspirations and things that you may not otherwise have thought of.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions for how we can improve this in future editions, please get in touch with your erstwhile amateur editor at

Useful Sustainable Penang/New Mobility references

The following hot links are all clickable direct to source.


How it works
1. Brainstorming the SDS PTMP
2. Big Bang SRS projects
4. NGO Challenge
3. NGO Media release 
5. 2-minute NGO Intro 
6. Penang Transport Primer
7. BCF report and recommendations
8. Sign the NGO BCF petition 
9. Government response to NGOs
10. Stage 1 Policy Report
11. Equal Time


  1. Survey report (787 pages)
    2. Overarching Master Plan Strategy
    3. Stakeholder/ Public Consultation
    4. The Institutional Plan
    5. Public Transport Improvement Plan 
    6. Highway Improvement Plan
    7. Water Transport Study 
    8. “Recommended TMP Strategy”


  1. Traffic Growth estimates
    2. Multiple Systems – In Major Cities
    3. Trams Not Feasible
    4. Highways Still Needed
    5. Financial Model for PTMP


– – > The Third Force
– – > Useful References for planners
– – > Sustainable/Penang Public Library
– – > Academia Collection 
– – > S/P Open House Archives 


BCF Intro in 2 minutes
The road (not) taken


– – > Facebook 
– – > WhatsApp 
– – > LinkedIn 
– – > Twitter 
– – > Google + 

COMMENTS/QUESTIONS:  Skype – newmobility

– – – > Access full report here –

To join the forum, we suggest a quick email to Engineer Lim at, indicating your name, organizational or NGO affiliation, and the particular issues and considerations of the sustainability agenda (transport, heritage, real estate, environment, economy, public health, happiness, etc.) which bring you to the forum.

# # #

About the editor

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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