Response to ‘Proposed LRT in Penang is both too early and too late’ — Jenna Hiew

JANUARY 3 — I am writing in response to Lim Mah Hui’s article titled “Proposed LRT in Penang is both too early and too late” published on January 3, 2019.

Firstly, the quotes plucked out of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and some random corporate figure is rather subjective. What is meant by “overbuilt and too expensive”, “too big and too luxurious”? Are these with reference to the size to ridership ratio of the stations, building specifications, contractual value or quality of works? It’s pointless harping on these overly generalised statements without knowing the exact meaning or quantifiable benchmarks that these statements are based on.

As a regular Penangite, our hope for the future of Penang is simply for better livability and mobility, and at least for that we all agree that the most immediate root cause that threaten these basic aspirations is Penang’s overcrowded roads and alarming rate of personal vehicle ownership. If the LRT construction is too early, then by all means, take a cue from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recommendation and “build in stages”. If the proposed LRT in Penang is too expensive, then tailor the cost accordingly, look at business models that would work.

It is unfair to cite the mismatch in projected ridership of metro lines in Kuala Lumpur as these networks were established against the settings of 20 years back when public perception and attitudes towards public transportation is vastly different from today. After all, public transportations rarely exist for profitability, some of the world’s heavily used and relied upon public transportation networks would agree that breaking even is already quite something. The priority and core in setting up public transportation shouldn’t solely be dictated by costs. How many would argue against the establishment of the LRTs, monorails and MRT lines in KL? Say all you may against the hefty cost or inefficiencies of these facilities, but thousands everyday have benefited and if given the voice would push for greater networks and connectivity despite all the naysayers and experts, who by the way are probably the ones detached from the reality of everyday commuting in congested cities. The danger is to be so engrossed with the numbers that you become blind and detached to the everyday realities of the masses.

With regards to the Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) which Lim espouses, would such a jump in transit technology be timely and ready for execution against our current backdrop in technological advancement? It’s one thing to make cost comparisons, it’s another to evaluate Penang’s readiness for high-end technology which would require an all-round study of its operation handlers and public uptake. The LRT seems much more realistic because of its somewhat familiarity whilst the ART system sounds like another fancy technological mirage. The claims made of the proposed LRT and monorail systems being “outdated, over-capacity, too expensive, and inflexible” seem grossly overgeneralised and extreme. Is there no way to find a middle ground which would serve the people of Penang in time and cater for future projections?

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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