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Traffic Congestion in Penang PDF Print E-mail
Written by Siti Fairuz Mustafa   
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 07:27

Dear readers and concerned people of Penang,


The PTC would first like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time and trouble to write in and contribute your ideas.  We appreciate that very much. It shows you care enough. We want to encourage citizens’ active participation. That is the essence of democracy. In fact local participation is more important than just voting every few years.


We are unable to reply to each and every question and also while we read and consider every question and comment, we may not necessarily agree to every comment.


Many of you have raised similar questions and concerns and we will try to respond to your comments collectively. The following are the major areas of concern:


1) Constraints faced by State and Local Authorities


First and foremost, it is important for readers to fully understand the constraints under which the state and local governments operate in Malaysia. While Malaysia is a federal system of government, in practice it is more of a unitary government where so much power is vested with the Federal government and very little with the state and local authorities. The state government has only two sources of revenue – collection of taxes related to state land matters and Islamic religious taxes, while the local governments collect assessment taxes etc.  Just to give you an idea of this imbalance of economic power, between 2001 and 2008, the Penang State contributed $26 billion to the Federal revenue but received only $0.8 billion in return.   The state depends on the Federal government for building federal roads etc. Given that the Penang state is not BN controlled, you must be able to appreciate the economic problems faced by the state. For those who are interested to learn more about the asymmetry of power between the federal and state governments, please visit  Penang Forum website.


2) Singapore Model?


Some readers have commented to study from the Singapore model. In fact the PTC is planning to send a delegation to visit the Singapore transport authorities.

But it should be emphasized that we face very different circumstances as pointed out above. Singapore is a city-state and the authorities are able to formulate and implement laws with very little constraints. Hence, readers must appreciate this basic difference.


3) Federal Powers over Transportation Issues


Next, the Federal government controls and determines many transportation issues such as ferry and water transport, bus and taxi licensing and even bus routes. The CVLB (Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board) – a federal authority issues and controls these licenses and the CVLB has not been very effective in controlling these bus and taxi operators.   For example, some readers have commented on buses not leaving on time or on specified routes, we have brought these to the attention of CVLB but no action has been taken against these errant operators. In fact CEPAT (a public transport NGO) had at one time wanted to take CLBV to court for failing to discharge its duties to properly monitor and regulate the operations of bus companies that it had issued licenses to.  We, however, have to commend Rapid Penang for offering higher standards of services to the public. This does not mean Rapid cannot improve and comments are still solicited.


4) Bus Transport


We agree with most of the comments and suggestions on improving bus transport and are working closely with Rapid to achieve those objectives. Please bear in mind again that the state and local authorities have no control over the other private and taxi operators who continue to flout laws.


We will request Rapid to provide bus routes and make bus makes easily available at affordable prices. As to time table, the issue is more complicated because even though the Rapid buses leave on time, they are caught up and delayed in traffic jams and hence its difficult to keep time according to the schedule.  However, riders can get an estimation of time of bus arrivals by calling Rapid at 238-1313.  Rapid tracks its buses using GPS and can estimate the arrival time.


We are working to provide bus lanes in certain areas to improve bus flows. But the public MUST cooperate by obeying the traffic rules.


Rapid has increased its bus services significantly over the last one year. Over 200 buses serve Penang island and over 100 buses Penang mainland. In some more travelled routes like Tanjong Tokong, Rapid buses leave every ten minutes. It is up to citizens like you to start taking buses voluntarily and increase the bus ridership as a percentage of total road users which is still in the low teens.


If citizens do not do that voluntarily, then the government should consider measures to discourage use of private cars such as imposing higher parking charges in town and a fee on busy streets or entering the city at peak hours. Such fees collected can be used to subsidize public transport.   We would like to know how many readers would be willing to support such measures.



5) Bicycle and Pedestrian Lanes


We also appreciate and agree with the suggestions to encourage bicycles as a form of transport and to provide bicycle lanes, plant more trees, clear five foot ways, improve pedestrian lanes and make facilities more accessible for the physically disadvantaged.



6) Other Modes of Transport and the Penang Master Transport Plan


Other modes of transport such as LRT, water ferries, trams etc have been suggested.  All these will be considered in the Penang Master Transport Plan and a holistic integrated system will be proposed by the consultant. The State Government has already called for open tender for consultants for the Penang Master Transport Plan. Please visit the website http://ep.penang.gov.my, for those wishing to participate in the tender.



7) Enforcement


A major problem with traffic congestion is the lack of enforcement. Much of the enforcement powers lie with the Federal police over which the State has no authority.


 Two major causes of traffic congestions are illegal parking and illegal hawking.  Again, under the present by-laws the local authorities are limited in its ability to clamp and tow illegally parked cars.  The local councils are in the process of amending their local by-laws to enhance their enforcement powers.  The MPPP has also written to the IGP for permission to establish a Polic Bantuan Unit to improve enforcement.  


Ordinary citizens can help in enforcement by taking photos and providing evidence to the traffic police to take action against people who violate traffic rules.



8) Traffic Lights and Traffic Flow


The Traffic Unit of the MPPP is constantly studying ways of improving traffic lights and traffic flow in terms of streamlining one way streets. A traffic consultant study is now being done to decongest traffic in hot spots like Jalan Masjid Negeri and Ayer Itam Road. MPPP has adopted the comprehensive Urban Traffic Control system to allow interactive operation of traffic signal network. However, due to budget constraint, it has not been expanded to cover the whole island. About 90% of the traffic signal installations in the island are of vehicle actuation type, i.e., with inductive loop coil to control signal timing.


9) Parking Fees and Parking Lots


The local councils are looking at introducing new parking fee collection system, increasing off street parking lots and decreasing on-street parking lots, and revamping parking fee rates. Parking system should be seen as a tool for traffic management.


10) Different Speed Limits


The JKR is empowered to set and gazette speed limits on all federal roads and state roads whereas MPPP is empowered to gazette speed limits on state roads and roads within the city limit. For inner city limits (bordered by Larut Road, Anson Road, Perak Road and Sungai Pinang Road),  MPPP has gazetted the speed limits as 50 km/h where traffic is more busy and congested. For roads outside the inner city limit, MPPP has gazetted the speed limit as 65 km/h.  For Masjid Negeri Road, Scotland Road, Tun Dr. Awang Road, Tun Sardon Road and Tunku Kudin Road, MPPP has gazetted the speed limit as 80km/h.


11) Public Participation


Finally we would like your views on whether it is good idea to organize occasional public town hall meetings for councilors and PTC to explain what is going on and to solicit feedback.  If such a public meeting is held, would you participate? 


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Comments (14)Add Comment
public townhall meeting must be regular and creatively marketed
written by kahseng, April 08, 2010
Public townhall meeting is a must for feedback and to mold/stimulate the mentality of the planners and technocrats/bureaucrasts. Better to hear the bad news earlier than 3 years later. At the very least, even if the townhall feedbacks are sometimes nonsensical, at least you know how to react to them, and gain credit for good reply later.

The meetings should not be occasional - that makes it too random for the public to follow up. Schedule them consistently and clearly, with SMS reminders to key participants or radio, such as on the second Saturday of every quarter. If people don't come, move it to a convenient location, near bus stop, and create some noisy campaign to attract participants. It is your duty to publicize it effectively.
Improving Penang Traffic: Congestion
written by cheahst, April 14, 2010
Last things first; yes, i believe many Penangites are willing to step forward and come up with feedback & suggestions to help improve on the state of traffic, or any other community related issues. The point is to make such town hall meetings open and visible, ie publicity on when and where. Most importantly, it must appear to be functioning, ie review of actions taken and effectiveness thereof, incl new approach if necessary.

on the case of public transportation:
why penalise the rakyat with expensive parking and compel them to use public transport when it is inadequate & rudimentary?
why penalise the rakyat when they are already the victims?

compelling the rakyat to choose public transportation by imposing punitive measures like reducing kerbside parking or increasing parking charges will incur serious backlash on what would seem to be high handed and cavalier attitude of those in office. It also smacks of profiteering at people's misery.
(Same issue with 20c for plastic bags. Plastic bags are INERT and they don't contaminate the environment. They choke drainages because of poor waste management and lack of anti-littering enforcement)
The focus shd be to facilitate an integrated modal approach, with gradual transition instead of hard cut-over.

on traffic congestion:
congestions are due to poor dispersal or lack of parking that forces vehicles to circle round. Drivers will prefer to park when they can.
poor dispersal are mainly due to uncontrolled illegal enroachment of roadways and haphazard design, not kerbside parking. case in point (USM, KOMTAR, anson road, etc: UNSYNCHRONISED pedestrian crossings with independent traffic lights sited 20-30m upstream or downstream of junction traffic lights. It's a of waste public funds and precious green time. Pedestrian crossings SHOULD be integrated into junction traffic lights if it's within 30m. Slip lanes should be introduced to relieve left turning traffic.
drivers double park to buy from illegal kerbside shops and these also contribute to congestion (with even bigger negative impact on public health, hygiene, and environment) eg Jln Utama (Pg Gen Hospital), McAlister Rd/Rangoon Rd, Lbh Chulia, etc
Advisor & Chair to TRANSIT - www.transitmy.org
written by Moaz Yusuf Ahmad, April 22, 2010
Yes, we would be happy to attend such a town hall - and we would encourage people to come with constructive suggestions to go along with their complains.
written by Ong Wee Heng, May 01, 2010
I personally think that tram system should be reintroduced in Penang, especially the heritage zone in Georgetown.
Traffic Congestion in Penang
written by Yeoh KK, June 21, 2010
Here's my comment on each of the topics stated, hope we would really see some magical works done by PKR.

1) Constraints faced by State and Local Authorities
Assuming Federal has so much power, but it is just a money matter. I believe State shall still be responsible to request and allocate State fund on traffic and transport issue, more important is to demonstrate the capability or plan to resolve transport issue. Having Federal support doesn’t mean transport issue can be resolve easily as you may see on other BN controlled state.
No doubt, we will fully support PKR in upcoming election no matter how long it will takes till PKR is successfully take over the Federal government. By then, it is important that PKR doesn’t apply the asymmetry power on State that not controlled by PKR.

2) Singapore Model?
Do not take the asymmetry power from BN as an excuse for not doing a good job on transportation improvement, even if it has so much difficult circumstances on $$$, it doesn’t mean you can’t show a good long term plan to the people, as long as your plan is good and effective, we will continue to support until the power is on hand.
As far as I know, I have been hearing lot of facts about the problem, not really heard about the proposed solution.

3) Federal Powers over Transportation Issues
Like I had mentioned, complaining existing Federal government not entertain the issue raised doesn’t mean you cannot propose a plan ahead of time, but bear in mind the plan has to be efficient and effective, not a blindly guess. To let people know what PKR is planning to do and has proper solution in hand, once PKR is taking over the Federal, this project can be implemented immediately instead of taking months or years again to examine. And this will also give confident to people that you have a proper plan in hand, therefore we know who to support in election.

4) Bus Transport
I had experience waiting 30mins on a bus from Bkt Jambul to Sg Ara, no proper sign/routes on the bus stand, no proper place to wait, where I have to step in every bus stopped and ask the driver whether it pass my area… such a simple task cannot be done properly!
What really important is the punctuation of the arrival time, not about track or estimate arrival time. How to improve on the punctuation is based on the speed of driving and traffic flow, no doubt traffic jams is an important, that’s why improving traffic flow is very important.

Having bus lanes is not a wise solution and would not solve the main issue, instead it will add burden to other road user, you must have not know during traffic jam, a two lanes road could squeeze to three lanes or more… what happen seeing empty bus lane without bus.
I think you have misunderstood on the need of public transport, Singapore has such a great transport system, it still has many people driving own car, why? Forcing or encourage people taking public transport is not a way to reduce the traffic flow, adding more buses would just increase the vehicles on the road.

5) Bicycle and Pedestrian Lanes
No doubt it is a good idea having proper bicycle and pedestrian, but living in such a hot weather, which make it less usage, solve the big issue first. But more accessibility for physically disadvantage person is a must!

6) Other Modes of Transport and the Penang Master Transport Plan
Inefficient method, waste of effort, wrong focus. Introducing more alternative transportation service is not an actual solution to current transport issue. Do you really think people drive own car because lack of public transportation?? Or is just your assumption that if Penang public transportation coverage and service is similar to Singapore, people would switch to public service?

7) Enforcement
It is ridiculous that JPJ and Traffic Police is influenced by Federal, their roles shall have been well defined doesn’t matter who is the Federal government.
Enforcement is needed when thing is out of control, when people is not follow the rule, but more important is to understand the root cause, more appropriate with education than enforcement or punishment. Can’t simply setup a hidden camera and giving summon to all vehicles that exceed the limit, sometime smooth traffic flow is more important than simply exceed limit. Driving fast is not equal to drive recklessly/dangerously.
In addition, approving stalls or allowing illegal stalls on the road side is indirectly allow vehicle to park illegally on the road side, but why this happen everywhere.
Lastly, you could propose to remove the illegal parking or hawking vehicle, this is incomplete in problem solving methodology, what you need to understand is why people would ‘prefers’ to park illegally, hawking the road?
Traffic Congestion in Penang
written by Yeoh KK, June 21, 2010
Here's my comment on each of the topics stated, hope we would really see something magical works done by PKR.

smilies/cool.gif Traffic Lights and Traffic Flow
I don’t see anything has been done by MPPP traffic unit, because I am noticing most of traffic lights is inefficiently on the control of traffic flow. Otherwise it won’t be necessary to allocate traffic police everyday to manually control the traffic at Greenland (including Jln Masjid Negeri), factory zone toward airport (Jln Sultan Ahmad Shah), etc… this is an evidence of the lack of proper traffic light control.
About 90% traffic signal with inductive loop, which is simply not an actual fact because I do sample count whenever driving on the road. Even if it has inductive loop, it is inefficient programmed because I can read it.
Streamline one way street!? I thought not long ago Jalan Jelutong has been converted from one way to two… what a conflict.

9) Parking Fees and Parking Lots
Implement off street parking lots is good, but have to understand the necessity of having on street parking to increase the convenient to people. Sometime have to think from different angle, try step on other people’s shoe.

10) Different Speed Limits
Setting up the limit has to be reasonable, and the road condition shall reflect the usability based on the road speed. This will ensure a smooth traffic flow. I don’t think whether JKR understand what is the need for speed limit. The designate speed shall be emphasized as the traffic flow speed, rather than the maximun of the speed. Otherwise I could just drive 50km/h at the designed 80km/h, this is what happen everyday, which causing the traffic jam, making other road users impatient, then accident and thing get worst…

On the Jelutong expressway toward Bukit Jambul roundabout, it stated speed 30km/h, I am dare to challenge you setting up a speed check on this area, none of road user would be able to follow, that’s why the road speed limit has to be reasonable.
Another example, hill road connecting Relau to Paya Terubong has speed 75km/h, only those who drive sport car manage to do it, for those who drive at 40km/h should it getting a summon!!!
Lastly the most irritating is the road hump with 35km/h speed, none of the hump that I had been through is allow with this speed, some might need 15km/h, some need a full stop, so what is the point of putting 35km/h sign!?

11) Public Participation
Yes, but unfortunately lack of publication, never heard such a public meeting ever held.

12) Road Condition (missing topic)
Road condition is a major obstacle for road user to move smoothly, MPPP has to be proactively monitor and repair the road in timely manner. Shouldn’t always respond to problem when receive complain, this is reactive action. Which include holes, uneven finishing, drain cover, and many unknown reasons.
For the very least, the road condition shall at least letting all vehicles to move smoothly at the designated speed.

13) Driver Attitude (missing topic)
Here’s an example, you must have seen vehicle that intent to make left turn, but always keep on the right lane (normally we call fast lane) until very close to the junction then only make a cut into left lane and make left turn, why this happen and what are the consequent to vehicles on the left lane!?

Again I know driving education is not within State right, but we can’t always wait until you take over the power. Even if we can’t make the change from a country wide prospective (JPJ, MIROS, etc), but at least we may have campaign to correct the driver attitude within the State.
And now is the most important part, have to understand and study the root cause, not just to identify the problem!
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Public Transport and Permit
written by MYroadtax.com, February 21, 2014
I would suggest to better the public transport system. The people will not use the public transport if the service is not good.

To minimize vehicle entry into certain city zones. Introduce a permit to only allow vehicles to enter certain zones during working days. Vehicles without permit can still enter during holidays, weekends and at night.

This permit should be displayed next to the road tax.

Thank you,
MYroadtax.com webmaster

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 April 2010 06:03