What is a Public Transport User Group? (And does Penang need one?)

Worldstreets has committed to carry out a series of articles, in cooperation with informed on-the-we the people - REDspot collaborators, looking into various aspects of public transport user groups, on the grounds that they are increasingly emerging  in many cities around the world as important potential players in the uphill struggle to sustainable transportation, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. In most of the 20th century transportation decisions were strictly made by government administrations and elected politicians, more often than not in cooperation with interests representing industrial and financial partners supplying infrastructure, vehicles, electronics and services. In most places these were closed loops in which the public was occasionally, at best, invited to approach the table and then asked to share their views on alternative proposals prepared by the various administrations and agencies, but for the most part were excluded from the actual planning and decision process. They were at most shadow players.

However this is starting to change, to the extent that in many cities in recent years these groups are increasingly becoming important players in the planning, decision and investment process. That is all to the good and that is why Worldstreets is carrying out this series of articles in 2015/2016.

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The Mobility Complex: Critical News for Penang

Whitelegg book cover MobilityJohn Whitelegg, Professor John Whitelegg, is a remarkable man who has spent his entire professional life as a scholar, teacher, critic, publisher, activist and politician, trying to make sense out of our curious world and the contradictions of transport and mobility. And in a successful attempt to bring all the threads together, what he has learned about our topic in three decades of international work spanning all continents, he has just produced for our reading and instruction a remarkable and, I truly believe, much-needed book.  His title gives away the game – Mobility: Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future.

John’s view of transport and mobility is conditioned by the fact that his point of departure is geography (his doctorate) and the uphill struggle to sustainable development and social justice (his professorship). And in the case of this latest book he digs deep beyond all that we can find in the crowded field of books, reports and articles about sustainable transport that will be published this year, in order to get into the guts of what it is really all about: the life philosophy behind it all. For if we have no philosophy we can have no vision. And if we have no vision, there is no way that we can shape and influence our future. 

A handful of things distinguish “Mobility” from the rest: It is much needed. It is timely. It is wise. It is readable. It challenges and makes your brain work. And for less than $10, you can have it in front of your eyes in a few short minutes (see below for ordering instructions). Yet one more thing that sets apart  this book, and indeed all his work from the rest, and  the author’s utter willingness to enter into armed intellectual combat to set out and defend his ideas and values. John’s work always brings to mind the wonderful words of the passionate Irish poet and politician, William Butler Yeats, who wrote a century ago that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”  John lights the fire.

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A Short History of Car Free Days: Origins, Timeline, Progress

“Every day is a great day to take a few cars off the street and think about it.”

Here is how the Car Free Days movement got started and has taken shape over the last 21 years.  This is the second in a series of articles which we update and post annually just prior to the September rush to get the latest batch of Car Free Day projects off the ground. We hope that these pieces and the references you find here are going to prove useful to those responsible for making a success of their Days in 2015. Getting a CFD right and making it a real success is no easy task — good knowledge of what has worked and not worked in the past should serve you well. Continue reading

Public Transport User Survey in Penang: An Invitation

malaysia penang heavy trafficWe have been asked by Ms. Alexandra Kang, a Lecturer and PhD candidate in the University Sains Malaysia, to draw survey of bus user attitudes in George Town Penang to the attention of our readers, both here and in the associated Facebook site for sustainable Penang at https://www.facebook.com/SustainablePenang, you will find below a short letter of introduction by Ms. Kang, with a direct link to the survey. In addition she provides us with some general background information on user a non-user attitudes toward bus travel in George Town. She will be sharing the results of her survey with out readers here.

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panang - Lim Mah HuiDr. Michael Lim Mah-Hui

The gentleman on the bike, Dr. Michael Lim Mah-Hui, is a city councilman in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. With an international background in economics, finance and public policy, he also has a long time interest in the challenges of sustainable development, livable cities, equitable transport, land use and historical preservation. He is active both as an elected councilor but also as a concerned and active citizen. He is in this, in his own words, for the long haul.

In a recent presentation to the City Council of Penang Island “Bicycling as One Component of a Comprehensive Transport Plan” — he wrote:
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A BRT FOR PENANG (Great Idea but Mind the Gap)

BRT lane in latin america - itdp

BRT – Bus Rapid Transit – a well-known transportation strategy which since first pioneered Curitiba Brazil in 1974 has seen many successes, and a fair number of disappointments. Fortunately all these projects are quite well documented, such that a real shared learning experience is underway.  Today there are more than two hundred cities on all continents with working BRTs, of a huge variety of variations. All of that is well known and abundantly covered by the literature.

The great thing about BRT is that, if you get it right, it not only serves as a high performance option to being stuck in traffic in your car, but that it also provides an opportunity for rethinking the street system and provide improved contusions for cyclists and pedestrians. But without a doubt the second most important contribution of BRT is that it takes space away from cars, while at the same time giving the drivers a better option.

BRT in Penang

BRT is a great and, I would say without hesitation, even necessary strategy for Penang. However a word of caution: BRT is not an option that you buy off the shelf and plop down on the street. It is something that a city and its team of advisors have to work very hard to study, tailor and implement to meet the unique specifications of your city.

So as part of our learning curve just in is an excellent article on a hotly contested BRT start-up (and shortly close-down) in New Delhi which is getting considerable attention not only there but in the transport world more generally. Today we share with you a report by one of the principal advisors to the project, Professor Dinesh Mohan of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, along with a few references that see all this from other perspectives.  (We thank the author for permission to reprint here.)

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