As part of preparing the way for a sponsored project, the last six weeks here were given over to work aimed at laying a firm organizational, working tools and communications base for the actual project. As of this date here are the main building blocks already for the most part in at least beta working order and ready to go as soon as the sponsors and partners give the green light:
We hear once again from Mr. Teoh Huey Hooi who comments on July 23 on the following graphic issued by the SRS team with government support. He tells us that “this comparison is obvious, Halcrow just a conceptual guideline, Penang Forum just opposing and did nothing. SRS is the most professional one.”
Interesting interpretation, but let’s have a closer look.
One of the reasons why such a small proportion of the world cities are working on having more sustainable transportation systems has to do with the fact that these are literally “complex systems”, a category of social and economic interactions which is far more complicated than laying down additional meters of concrete.
A complex system is filled with nuances and surprises, as a result of the fact that all of the bits and pieces that constitute them interact with each other, and all too often yields contradictory results which are quite opposite from what the initial practitiones or policymakers may have wished to bring about. The classic example of this is of course the discredited “predict and provide” approach to transport which famously creates a mindset which consistently favors more traffic. So even with all of the goodwill and hope in the world, many of these policies or approaches achieve results which are contrary to the initial expectations and often deleterious.
In the coming weeks we are going to be presenting here coverage of a highly interesting public discussion of differences of perspectives, values and finally of interests, which have at its core the same concerns of World Streets and our readers: namely the challenges of sustainable development, sustainable transportation and the context of the politics of transport in cities.
But let’s not try to get into the interesting details and ongoing work in this first editorial; instead let’s see if we can present a quick canned history of this small South East Asian city that is facing some hard choices that are important for the immediate future but also for the long term. There is a lot of passion surrounding these issues and differences, so in this we shall do our best to maintain what our friends over at Wikipedia so deftly call, NPOV – a neutral point of view.
* We asked 100 international experts for their views. 101 have responded.
Professor Elizabeth Deakin wrote…
I am a regular reader of World Streets. I also pass along articles from the website to my graduate students.
The work is of high quality and it puts us in touch with other researchers and practitioners in the field of sustainable development and transport.
It provides a much-needed service and cuts through the media overload to the essentials.
And in 2016, seven years after the appearance of its first edition in spring 2009, it’s as needed as ever.
Elizabeth Deakin, Berkeley CA USA
Professor Emerita of city & regional planning and urban design
College of Environmental Design. University of California, Berkeley
First co-director of UC Berkeley Global Metropolitan Studies Initiative and first Director of the University of California Transportation Research Center
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.