Don't hesitate to make unpopular decisions to improve public transportation, Penang govt told

Mohamed Basyir

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government should make unpopular decisions, to focus only on improving the existing public transportation system rather than building more roads, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) said today. Its central committee member Choo Chon Kai said the state government would not be able to improve the desired 40 per cent ridership of public transport, from the existing three per cent, by building more roads. He said the existing coverage of public bus services was limited. “It is good that the state government came up with the free bus initiative during peak hours but it does not cover a wide range of locations, making it a hassle for passengers who have to take additional bus to reach their destinations. “Take Jalan Perak for instance, you can see how congested this area gets during peak hours but only a few buses ply this route. This should be improved,” he told reporters here today. Earlier this year, the state government introduced free bus initiative called Congestion Alleviation Transport (CAT) as part of its efforts in tackling the worsening traffic congestion during peak hours. Elaborating, Choo said the state government should also consider charging private vehicle owners in the state as a way to push for them to use public transportation. “They (the state government) must introduce something revolutionary...maybe come up with charges for the (private) vehicles,” he added. The Penang government is embarking on the ambitious Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) project, which comprises an undersea tunnel, light rail transit (LRT) and three paired roads projects. The PTMP is to be funded through the reclamation of three man-made islands (809ha, 526ha and 324ha, respectively) for industrial, housing and commercial purposes. One of the three paired roads is the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) highway project, which includes a 10km tunnel, to connect Jalan Gottlieb, Youth Park, Penang Hill, Paya Terubong and Sungai Ara, among others. The highway is expected to reduce traveling time from Persiaran Gurney to the Penang International Airport to only 15 minutes, compared with the current 45 minutes to one hour. Choo said that having the paired roads and the LRT at the same time could result in the LRT unable to sustain for a long period. “Since more roads are being built, then how would there be more people using LRT?” he asked. He said PSM would write to the Department of Environment (DOE) to object PIL 1 as there were a number of shortcomings in its Environmental Impact Assessment as raised by numerous environmental groups in recent weeks. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd