Sunday, December 11, 2005

Penang Traffic Woes

Lately, the traffic problem in Penang has been in the news a lot more including the projects that will help ease the problems.

It probably started off from the formation of a coalition of citizens and NGOs that called on the State Government to improve the public transportation system in the state. Still there are people calling for the Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project to be scrapped and use those funds to upgrade the public transportation system instead.

Also, there's also this news about a local firm that is willing to fully fund the construction of the proposed second bridge in Penang and that work on the PORR will commence very soon. Work to expand the current Penang Bridge is already underway. Looks like there's going to be a lot of development here in Penang for the next few years mostly concentrating on improving the traffic condition on the island. That's really good news indeed.

The State Government is looking to apply for a special fund from the Federal Government to help subsidise the public buses on the island. Also, senior officials including the Chief Minister of Penang has agreed publicly that the current traffic situation in Penang is just horrible and the alternative of public transport is even worse. The State Government is also implying that they are powerless in this matter as the public transportation system is under the perogative of the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) and that funds for any of these projects must come from the Federal Government and approval from the Cabinet. All this time Penangites are bashing the State Government for inaction. Why only now do they choose to inform us of this 'problem'?

I think it is high time that the Federal Government does something to eleviate the traffic problem in Penang. We have been waiting for some major development in Penang for years and there is no better time than now to start the ball rolling. In my opinion, all the projects must go hand-in-hand. I know that will cause a great strain on the Treasury but working only on one project is not going to help the situation at all. Worse still, it might create more problems.

I think the PORR is not such a bad idea after all. Let's take Singapore for example. They have so many expressways (if not highways) on the island itself! It makes travelling around so much easier. They don't have toll plazas that will cause jams. They use the gantry system for the inner city to collect toll. Don't get me started with their public transportation system! It's just such a wonderful experience taking public transport in Singapore. Heck, I might even choose public transport over private transport in Singapore! The PORR can really help improve the roads in Penang. Have you been stuck in a crawl when a car breaks down or an accident occurs? The PORR will give us an alternative route and the RM1 is minimal amount for a fast and stress-free trip across the island. If the concessionaire plays it right, they don't have to increase the toll at all. Volume is good enough to generate enough revenue for them.

The bus routes must be totally revamped. Major routes must have buses plying them more frequently and buses must cover more parts of the island to make them more viable. The Penang Monorail must also kick-off. It can't wait for 2010. By the time it is completed, the traffic condition in Penang would have been so chronic, it might be just too late. Work must start now. We were suppose to be the first state to have a light rail transportation system back in the mid-1990s. Till now, we still hear only promises. This project is way overdue and there should not be any more postponement.

The Penang Bridge has exceeded its limits long ago. The expansion it is receiving now will only make it sustainable for a while more. Building a bridge that massive takes a lot of time. Work has to start now. Why must we wait for the Penang Bridge to be choking again before work on the new bridge starts? By that stage, the Penang economy might even collapse!

All these projects must go hand-in-hand if the Federal and State Governments are serious in tackling this problem. Penang is the second largest city after Kuala Lumpur and this is no small feat considering we are only an island! Yes, there is the mainland but there is still time to develop the place. In fact, it is getting more attention and development projects at the moment compared to the island. It's about time Penang regains its shine.

No comments:

Post a Comment