Mobilien: Better, Faster, Cheaper. . . than BRT (for Penang)

While Penang is thinking once again about its transportation arrangements, we are hearing a lot of late about BRT and tramways — and rightfully. Both a huge improvement over earlier proposals for a mad spaghetti mix of intrusive monorails, elevated LRT/LRV systems,  Sky Cabs hanging uselessly in the horizon, over-built road infrastructure projects  to serve and encourage yet  more car traffic, and a backbreaking  proposal for a sea tunnel that would bring yet more traffic into the island and in the process extend and multiply today’s traffic mess and associated inconveniencies

But before we make up our minds let’s also give a thought to another less well known mobility option, the Mobilien.  It may be just what you were looking for.

Paris Mobilien 1

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Monorails for Penang? Slamming the door (once and for all on a very bad idea)

Monorail Malacca accident

As an old friend to Penang with a couple of decades of policy experience in sustainable transport and sustainable cities field in different parts of the world, I am trying to put to rest the latest STMP proposal to build not one, not two but THREE free-standing monorails as part of the long-term master plan. To set the stage for today’s closing piece, I would draw your attention first to two pretty definitive Op-Ed pieces on monorails posted here in the last day, which you will find at http://wp.me/p3GVVk-tg (Part I) and http://wp.me/p3GVVk-tm (Part II)

Building on that – and in the hope of burying monorail mania once and for all in Penang — let me offer a closing short strategic commentary on monorails and more generally in situations where high capacity carriers are called for to take pressure off the existing  transport infrastructure.

Note to the reader: This article as been cobbled together very quickly in order to complete the three part series on monorails for Penang. It will be the object of further thought, editing, and possibly new materials in the weeks ahead.

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Op-Ed: Why light rail would be a better option for Penang

This article by Anil Netto appeared in the blog http://anilnetto.com on 4 April  2016.  ( http://anilnetto.com/society/public-transport/komtar-penang-airport-lrt-not-good-idea/. It is our view that this is the kind of critical independent discussion that is needed, point by point on every page and every line of the “Master Plan” now being vigorously defended by the state government.)

We do need a rapid transit from George Town to the airport but not in the way the Penang transport masterplan envisages.

It is not appropriate for a world heritage site or its vicinity to have raised transport infrastructure, which would be intrusive to the landscape. Moreover, what is planned seems out of keeping and oversized for the needs of Penang.

Instead, it would be more feasible and economical for light rail to run at street level in the city, rising to elevated level where required. It should be kept at ground level as far as possible.

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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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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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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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The Penang Transport Council – As seen in 2009

Penang Transport Council to tackle transportation problems

George Town. 10 March 2009. The Sun Daily. – http://www.thesundaily.my/node/158168

Traffic jam road February 1, 2009 in Georgetown, Penang.

Traffic jam road February 1, 2009 in Georgetown, Penang.

The Penang government hopes to resolve the transportation problems in the state with the setting up of a Penang Transport Council (PTC).

Local government and traffic management committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said today the members of the working group on transport set up last year will be roped in to form the PTC.

“With the setting up of the PTC, we hope to come up with a Penang transportation master plan to review the public transport systems and traffic management and find ways to improve them,” he told a press conference.

“The PTC meetings will be open to the public when the need arises — and the principle of accountability and transparency will be followed,” he said.

Listing traffic congestion, parking problems and inadequate public transportation as among the main transportation woes, Chow said the PTC will be the coordinating body for all such issues.

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