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

malaysia Penang trishaw sleeping driver

Introduction.

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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The New Government should have a New Transport Policy

Count the buses, trams, bicycles, and shared cars in moring rush hour in Penang

   – By Wang Zuxun. This excellent article was published July 3, 2018 in Chinese in http://bit.ly/2KSHCZn . It was kindly brought to our attention by Dr, Lim Mah Hui, former Councillor in the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and active as a member in the Penang Forum. What follows is a machine translation of the Chinese original, lightly edited for clarity as possible. You will still find anomalies, but the text is largely readable and the article so good that we can leave it to you to sort them out for yourselves. 

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COSTS, BENEFITS AND HIATUS OF ORIGINAL PENANG TRANSPORT MASTER PLAN

* * * COLLABORATIVE THINKING EXERCISE (DRAFT 1) * * *

– CIVIL SOCIETY – THE THIRD FORCE: Government of the people, by the people, for the people

Please have a look and, if interested, may we have your thoughts about these and other impact areas that in your view need to be taken into consideration in order to have a full and shared understanding  of these impacts of the proposed and latest SDS Penang Transport Master Plan.

The objective here is not to criticize or belittle the State’s efforts at improving the short-comings and potential of today’s transportation arrangements in Penang.  But to provide open citizen feedback to their proposals to all levels of government, civil society and the public at large.  As President Abraham Lincoln put it at a hard moment for history  in America: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”.  Your responses welcome here or to penang@ecoplan.org. Thank you.

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ON A SCALE OF 0-10: please show us your views concerning how the proposals, measures  and their potential set out in the  SDS PTMP do in the following legitimate areas of citizen interest and concern. Some of these are quite specialized as you will see as your work your way down the list, but don’t let that bother you.  Just share your views with the items that strike your attention. With a careful eye to both long and short term impacts (say in the coming three years, 2018-2020).

* * * For latest version of SDS MP : http://pgmasterplan.penang.gov.my — See below the listing of the principal infrastructure projects proposed by the plan.

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Why Alternatives Analysis is critical to Penang’s transportation future

Alternatives assessment or alternatives analysis is a problem-solving approach used in environmental design, technology, and policy. It aims to minimize environmental harm by comparing multiple potential solutions in the context of a specific problem, design goal, or policy objective. It is intended to inform decision-making in situations with many possible courses of action, a wide range of variables to consider, and significant degrees of uncertainty.

Since the early 1970’s transportation planners apply a multi-modal and/or comprehensive approach to analyzing a wide range of alternatives and impacts on the transportation system to influence beneficial outcomes

Penang’s SRS ca. RM 50 bn “Transport Master Plan” does not make scientific use of an essential transport planning and decision tool, namely Alternatives Analysis to test and compare alternative solutions to identified mobility solutions (see below). This is a grave deficiency which discredits the entire body of proposals,, methodology and recommendations currently being actively pushed by the state government and their under-qualified  consulting partners whose expertise lies in other sectors than strategic transport planning and policy..

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Battle of Ideas: Towards a New Mobility Agenda for Penang

The central premise of the State’s strategy is simple . . .  to “move people, not vehicles”.    – From the Penang Transport Master Plan, at https://goo.gl/h9q8wm

INVITATION TO AN OPEN PUBLIC BRAINSTORM:

Can we get your support for or your reactions to a draft proposal that follows, for comparing the merits and the usefulness for the people of Penang for five alternative strategies for dealing with Penang’s most pressing transport/mobility needs and priorities? (Note: This is a very rough first introduction to this idea for creating a comprehensive independent basis for comparing the alternative strategies, targets and competence.)

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Op-Ed:“The automobile was never an appropriate technology for [cities]. As a form of mass transit for the world, it is a disaster.”

street-cafe-scene-new-movement-for-the-new-city

* 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

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25 excellent reasons why you never, ever want to expand infrastructure capacity, build more roads, facilitate more parking, etc., in Penang

car-spiral

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