Seven reasons why the LRT plan in Penang beats BRT and ART — Joshua Woo Sze Zeng

JANUARY 5 — Since the Light-Rail Transit (LRT) project in Penang was first unveiled in 2015, a small group of people have objected against it.

Although the objections have been addressed at numerous occasions, they are still being used at various outlet and season. Latest being Lim Mah Hui’s article “Proposed LRT in Penang is both too early and too late.”

There are two alternatives suggested to replace the LRT plan. First, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and second, the Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART). In this article, I want to point out seven reasons why the LRT is better than BRT and ART.

My focus will be on the proposed Bayan Lepas to Komtar LRT alignment and not the comprehensive network covering whole of Penang.

1. LRT is safer for commuters and road users

By being elevated, without sharing the same road with other vehicles, the LRT has no chance of colliding with other vehicles and road users.

Having to share road, the BRT and ART have high chances of collision. Even with dedicated lane, they are still sharing junction, intersection, and pedestrian crossing, where accident is waiting to happen.

2. LRT is more comfortable for commuters

Anyone who has taken the bus and the LRT will know the different comfort level for both. The bus is jerky and bumpy, while the LRT is not perfect but it is much more comfortable.

To test this, one can try reading a book in the bus and in the LRT. We can often readily read a book in LRT, but not in a bus. Why? It is because the LRT’s acceleration and brake are much more predictable and managed compared to the BRT and ART that are more chaotic as they same road space with other vehicles and road users.

3. LRT provides smooth journey, unaffected by road accident

Just today, a lorry that has overturned on Penang Bridge blocked two lanes off the three-lane road. The congestion was horrendous as vehicles from three lanes were squeezing into the remaining lane.

If a BRT or ART meets a similar situation, it will get stuck in the congestion like other vehicles. It will be worse if an accident has blocked the opening of the dedicated lane of the BRT or ART, their service has to be completely stopped until the obstacle removed. LRT on its own elevated track will not have such problem.

4. LRT does not cause other vehicles to emit more CO2

Giving priority for the right of way for BRT and ART at junction and intersection will cause other vehicles to spend more time on the road. This will increase their carbon footprint.

LRT does not need the right of way as it moves on elevated track, and therefore does not require vehicles to spend more time on the road, thus does not leads to the increase of CO2 production.

5. Increasing LRT passenger capacity does not affect road users

As the LRT moves on elevated track, the adding of more carriage to the train to increase its passenger capacity will not disrupt road users.

Using articulated vehicles to increase passenger capacity for BRT and ART poses high risk for accident with other road users. That is the reason why articulated buses in London (known as bendy bus) were replaced after they were found to be involved in 75per cent more accident than regular buses. It is estimated that the articulated vehicle comprised only 5per cent of London’s buses but involved in 20per cent of all bus-related deaths.

In other words, LRT is still safe with the increment of passenger capacity, but the same cannot be said of the BRT and ART.

6. LRT station’s high benefit for the public

Being big and elevated, the LRT stations are much conducive as a shelter for pedestrians and cyclists during raining season. This is an advantage to the public that cannot be overlooked for a place with tropical climate like Penang.

A step further, LRT stations can be used as emergency shelter too. Countries such as Singapore built their MRT stations as crisis or bomb shelter equipped with “protective blast doors, decontamination facilities, ventilation system, power and water supply systems and dry toilet system.”

It is uncommon to have big station for BRT and ART that are on the ground as the space is constrained. Their station has lesser capacity as a shelter, limited in public benefit.

7. LRT upholds people’s democratic rights to choose

Finally, the LRT plan provides an alternative mode of transport for people to choose from, instead of forcing them to stop using their private vehicle.

The BRT and ART requires the closure of at least one lane for their dedicated use. This will take away road space and worsen congestion which then makes driving unbearable. BRT and ART would create such a stressful condition that pressures people to abandon their private car and use them

LRT does not crowd into the current roads like the BRT and ART. The LRT plan does not pressure people with more congestion stress. The LRT gives people choices to choose from, as that is a mark of democracy.

When it comes to improving mobility, a good policy educates, a bad one coerces. Surprising that those opposing the LRT plan would resort to authoritarianism to coerce people to use public transport.

The proponent of BRT and ART may argue that the LRT is more expensive to build and operated. This is still an open question, depending on how much land acquisition is needed and what business model will be used.

Nonetheless, what is certain is that the seven reasons above have shown how much better the LRT is compared to the other two suggestions. Cost is important but it is not all that matters.

Safety, comfort, smooth journey, carbon footprint, ability to increase capacity, public benefits, and democratic rights are likewise important. Why would anyone want a cheap transit system that is dangerous, uncomfortable, disruptive, produces more carbon footprint, cannot increase capacity, with limited benefits, and coercive?

Give us the LRT please.

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

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