– By Joshua Woo . In Penang Monthly, October 2016. http://penangmonthly.com/better-cheaper-faster-really/ 

This article by Mr. Joshua Woo, Special Officer to Member of Parliament of Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Malaysia provides a critical analysis of two radically different, hotly contested  approaches to sustainable transport planning and policy for the state of Penang, Malaysia.  Readers  not familiar with these challenges and critical differences in Penang are invited to consult  the background  postings here: (a) Penang Transport Master Plan (b) Penang – A Sustainable Transport Primer for a Battle of Ideas ;and  (c) The NGO Challenge, and (d) State Government response to NGOsYou may also find good value  in a three minute video which provides a very good, and very funny synopsis of the process currently underway: (e) The Three Minute Summary .                                        * Still hungry for more from all sides: work your way down the right hand menu to this site.

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Wrong about widening the roads? “FOLLOW THE MONEY”


Dr. Pojani in her lecture at Penang Heritage  of Friday entitled “Urban Transport Crisis in Small and Medium Size Developing Cities and the Effectiveness of Countermeasures” — at one point advises us to FOLLOW THE MONEY.  Now that’s an interesting comment and really makes me wish I had been with you. Here’s an example of how I interpret this counsel from my perspective as a strategic planner.

Thanks to Andrew we have a YouTube recording of the Dr. Pojani lecture – at https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10155333414145550&id=756525549 . Hopefully her presentation slides will be available shortly for all those of us who were not in Penang that day.

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SEDUCTIVE BUT DESTRUCTIVE GOALS: Congestion-free and affordable driving

Penang. Highway construction. Source: Reuters

Penang. Highway construction. Source: reuters

Urban transport decision-makers face huge pressures to keep driving uncongested and to keep it cheap. But take a look at cities that have worked long and hard to get free-flowing traffic and affordable driving. I doubt you will like what you see. This point was a central theme of Paul Barter’s chapter “Achieving Sustainable Mobility” which appears in The State of Asian and Pacific Cities 2015 jointly published late last year by UN-ESCAP and UN-HABITAT.

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Op-Ed: A Properly Financed Transport Plan for the Long Haul

Penang highway from SRS MP

Project from SRS TMP at http://pgmasterplan.penang.gov.my/. “MOVING PEOPLE NOT CARS”

This official interview with state executive councillor for Local Government,Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Chow Kon Yeow has appeared at a good time as public discussions are gathering momentum with a growing range of no-political civil society organizations and NGOs asking that the state government reconsider the “Big Bang” project which they have developed by their consultants SRS consortium for an admitted total of RM46bil for a wildly ambitious construction program projected to handle the transportation requirements of the state for the next 50 years. (Other informed estimates set the taxpayer burden at close to 50% higher.)

It is our intention to comment on a number of points advanced by Mr. Chow in a follow-up article in the coming week. For your convenience, you will notice that the items to be discussed are identified by two asterisks and a number for your later reading convenience. We now invite you to enjoy Mr. Chow’s presentation.

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RETHINKING NEW MOBILITY IN PENANG: The search for Values, Vision, Competence, Strategies, Tactics . . and Happiness.

malaysia Penang trishaw sleeping driver


Dr. AH Abdul Hamid, an eminent traffic and transport engineer from the School of Housing, Building and Planning at the USM, has recently  issued a strong call to respond to the at times acrimonious debate between the government and its consultants who are defending a high cost, car-oriented, project-oriented “Big Bang” program of costly investments (PTMP), and on the other side a coalition of representatives of civil society in Penang who are asking for a revised planning process that better corresponds  to the needs, the environment and the vision of the people of Penang. This call, first published locally in Chinese in the China Press of August 13, 2016 was translated into English and reposted in the Wednesday edition of World Streets – http://wp.me/psKUY-4wd.

Dr. Hamad takes a step back from the increasingly acrimonious public arguments and recommends that

  • “the government engage independent experts to study both the proposals by SRS and the NGOs, based on best scientific estimates of construction cost, acquisition cost, maintenance and operation cost, life cycle, opportunity costs and externalities, ridership, environmental and life quality impacts, cultural and heritage issues, impacts on vulnerable populations, etc. . . .  instead of keep on arguing.”

Inspired by this call for perspective in the following article I have pulled out of my working  notes this article sketching what I believe to be the first basics of an appropriate planning structure and strategy for the much-needed rethink, based on the experience of many cities at the leading edge of sustainable transport that works for all.  In this form it is not an easy read, and for that I appologize. My point is that we need to find a solid science-based middle ground, and as Hilmy advises get on with it “instead of keep on arguing.”

For extensive background on both sides of this debate readers are invited to consult the right hand column of the Sustainable Penang/New Mobility website at https://sustainablepenang.wordpress.com/, .

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Malaysian scholar on Transport and Land Use comments on The Battle of Penang

SRS projects vs. Penang Forum call for new Transport Master Plan

better cheaper faster penang transport master plan 2Translated from Chinese interview of Ahmad Hilmy, transport and city planning scholar from the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), which appeared in the China Press of August 13, 2016. Mr. Hilmi closes the interview by stating frankly his recommendation that “the government engage independent experts to study both the proposals by SRS and the NGOs, based on best scientific estimates of construction cost, acquisition cost, maintenance and operation cost, life cycle, opportunity costs and externalities, ridership, environmental and life quality impacts, cultural and heritage issues, impacts on vulnerable populations, etc., instead of keep on arguing.

For full background on the fast-growing struggle to create a sustainable transport system for Penang. we direct you to The NGO Challenge Dialogue at http://wp.me/p3GVVk-xJ. The picture is rather murky at first due to considerable obfuscation on the part of the current administration, but if you are interested please take the time to work your way down through that top right menu section also entitled NGO Challenge Dialogue. You make up your mind, and if you have any comments, corrections or suggestions these pages are entirely open.

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Op-ed: In Response to Free Public Transport?

Simon Norton comments: Submitted on 2016/08/07


There are 2 overriding arguments for free transport:

  1. It avoids the cost (in both person power and time) of fare collection. The latter is particularly relevant when a bus has to spend ages at bus stops collecting fares from boarding passengers. Then motorists demand that the bus pulls into a layby so that they can get past, and the bus has to waste further time waiting to pull out after all the fares are collected.
  2. It encourages people to think of public transport as the default option. This increases the likelihood of it being able to provide a comprehensive service, as on less used routes it will be able to capture a high proportion of the overall travel demand.

Now for some counter arguments to the ones put forward by Eric:

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