Turn away from cars, Porr; invest in buses

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In an open letter to the Penang Chief Minister, the Citizens for Public Transport (Cepat) point out that cities across the developed world are turning against the car. With crude
oil prices reaching the stratosphere and global warming a reality, we
buck the trend at our peril. In tackling our problems we must
exercise patience and wisdom so that whatever we do is sustainable
and not harm the future of our children.



Cepat,
a coalition of NGOs committed to sustainable, efficient and
cost-effective traffic solutions would like to raise certain issue of
concern with the Chief Minister.

 

 
PORR
and the Monorail

 
The
debate on sustainability of projects, such as the Penang Outer Ring
Road (Porr) and the monorail, promised by the previous government,
should be continued by the present administration. While we are not
against these projects per se, we feel there is a need for thorough
and independent review before they are approved. Porr
in particular goes against all transport planning principles which
have clearly proven that building more roads always a temporary
solution which eventually creates more private car traffic as opposed
to establishing good public transport systems.

 
Who
do these mega projects benefit?

 
There
is suspicion that both projects were originally conceived not to
solve any traffic problems but to benefit a select group of
well-connected individuals. It is absolutely imperative that projects
of this size, with a total cost of RM5 billion, are undertaken only
if it benefits the State.

 

 
Risks:
Projects to be bailed out by the tax payers later?

 
It
is claimed that since both projects will be funded privately, so
there is no reason for concern. Unhappily this is not true as has
been shown by so-called private projects which had to be bailed out
by the taxpayers. The Penang state government has to be very cautious
and critical of these mega schemes.

 
Urgent:
a professional, independent review

 
Members
of the public who have to suffer the daily crawl through the heavy
traffic understandably want an immediate solution. However, we must
recognise that the problems we are facing today are the result of
many bad transport planning decisions. We therefore urge the new
Govt. to avoid making the same mistakes in our desire for a quick-fix
remedy.

 
A
proper review by independent consultants should take less than six
months and cost a fraction of the budgets for these projects, and the
results should be made public for comments and debate.

Buses:
cheapest and most effective solution

Common
sense dictates that in solving a problem, the simplest and cheapest
solution is tried first; and the most complex and expensive last. In
this case the simplest and cheapest solution is buses and the most
expensive and complex are the monorail and Porr.

 


Promoting
buses best

 
Pragmatism
therefore suggests that we should promote buses, which are cheaper,
more flexible and non-disruptive, (unlike Porr or the monorail during
construction). We urge the government to invest more in improving
Rapid Penang to make it truly effective; a well run multi-hierarchy
system will significantly improve our traffic situation. One tenth of
the RM5 billion invested in buses will make dramatic impact.

Best
case scenario for Porr and monorail

At
best both Porr and the monorail will ease the traffic only along the
corridors they serve. Traffic elsewhere, such as that along Pulau
Tikus, Jln Burma, Jln Kelawai and Jln Northam will remain congested.
On the other hand, a good fleet of buses can solve our traffic
problem state-wide. Even the Halcrow transport report regarded Porr
as a temporary solution for only a few years, before the increasing
traffic volume congests it. What do we do then? Another Porr?


Worldwide
policy trends: Rejecting private car dependency

Everywhere
in the developed world cities are turning against the car. With crude
oil prices reaching the stratosphere and global warming a reality, we
buck the trend at our peril. In tackling our problems we must
exercise patience and wisdom so that whatever we do is sustainable
and not harm the future of our children.

Nizam
Mahshar

Coordinator,

Citizens
for Public Transport, Penang.

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