* Recommended reading for anyone who aspires to catch up quickly on what is going on in the evolution of thinking and practice concerning transport planning, policy and practice in cities in this very different 21st century. New rules! Excerpts from Bruce McVean’s The New City lecture given on 11th February 2013 at Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture. Title to this piece borrowed from Taras Grescoe in Straphanger
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 apolitical civil society organizations and NGOs asking that the state government reconsider the Big Bang project which they have developed by their consultants, the 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.
Penang Forum’s ‘better, cheaper, faster’ transport plan not practical, says state
- Interview with State executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow.
- By Opalyn Mok in TheMalayMailOnline.com of July 22, 2016. http://goo.gl/HoXcvi
- Comment by Professor Eric Britton, email@example.com
YB councillor Chow Kon Yeow _______Professor Eric Britton
A Moment of Truth
Lessons from “Better, Cheaper, Faster” and Civil Society in Penang
Penang, 4 August 2016: The state-appointed SRS consulting team who have presented their revised Transport Master Plan and project proposals have inserted specific high cost modal and technology choices without sharing the technical analysis behind these choices, with a heavy no-choice no-explanation preference for no less than three exotic monorails, elevated LRT, major road building and road works, and, depending on the day, bridges and/or tunnels.
Have they actually done their homework? No one knows since the technical studies are being kept confidential, despite promises by the state government to make them public.
Yet there are lots of two dozen competing ways of getting from A to B. Here’s an incomplete shortlist of different candidates, just to get us going:
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.
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.
Fifteen local NGOs have cautioned Penangites not to rush to endorse the state’s mega-billion transport master plan (PTMP), saying more consultation and transparency are needed in the massive deal.
The NGOs, including Aliran and the Penang Heritage Trust, issued a joint statement giving Penangites nine major reasons why “the people of Penang should not be rushed into signing this important agreement”.
They said this while commending and expressing support on the need to prioritise public transport over the present private car-centric transport system.
Critical issues they want the state and its appointed project delivery partner SRS Consortium to address include the tremendous costs involved – currently estimated at RM40 billion.. .
“The most worrying concern is that the PTMP lacks vision, it is touted as a plan for Penang for the next 50 years yet it is trapped in 20th century technology and approach in planning,” the NGOs said.
“It proposes obsolescent solutions to Penang’s transport problems, ignoring the latest developments in mass transit planning around the world.