GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says it is impossible to expect everyone in a city to use public transport and that those who supported the idea were simply too idealistic.
He said even in Singapore, which has a top-notch public transport system, its usage was only 40% while the rest of the population used other forms of road transportation, including private cars.
Hence, more roads were needed in Penang, he said in response to an argument by NGOs that the state should build less highways and focus on public transportation.
“We have always used Singapore as a model. It has the best public transportation, but they themselves keep building roads. Have you asked them why they are not focusing only on public transport?
“The reality is, in many cities around the world, it is hard to achieve good ridership on many modes of public transport. And they too, build roads. You cannot find a city that stops building roads.
“While Penang’s public transport is nothing to shout about compared to Singapore, we want to start working on it now so that we will be prepared in the next 10 years with a solid road network and public transport system side by side,” he said in a dialogue with 40 members of the Singapore Society of Modern Management (SMM) in Komtar today.
Chow was replying to a question by a SMM member on whether the Malaysian government would fully fund Penang’s first light rail transit (LRT) line.
The chief minister said Penang would most likely pursue the self-financing method since the federal government was taking austerity measures.
Chow said while Penang would fund its own transportation projects for the time being, he hoped for good news in terms of the LRT project approval from Putrajaya by year’s end.
“You may have thought they would pump money into Penang, after the change of government (in Putrajaya). That is not the case for the time being.
“We have a lot of debts and the finance minister is trying to sort that out first,” he said.
The RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) is the state’s plan to introduce new roads, highways and public transport, including the LRT.
The proposed Komtar-Bayan Lepas LRT line under the PTMP will cost RM8.4 billion, which includes RM1 billion for land acquisition costs, as reported last July.
The PTMP has been a subject of intense debate in Penang, after an environmental impact report of the Pan Island Link 1 highway was made available for viewing.
The 20km highway would be mostly built through the hills on Penang Island, with four separate tunnels.