A key discussion in the planning of public mobility is on how to reduce the number of cars on the roads. Generally, there are only two ways to do that.
The first way is through strict enforcement of policies that make private car ownership and usage very burdensome.
For example, the government can impose a high tax to own or use a car, limit the number of cars per household, and reduce road space for car usage by either closing the roads or designate them for public transport vehicles like buses or trams.
This method is very effective in the short run as it can be done within a short period of time, at very low cost.
The social impact, however, is tremendous. Car users are threatened with severe penalties and this causes much inconvenience.
Stubborn motorists will continue to use their cars despite the reduced road space. This will only increase congestion and worsen the driving and commuting experience.
Taking away road space to allow public transport affects the travelling time of drivers. Less obstinate motorists will have no choice but to give up their private cars reluctantly.
This method is easy to be implemented but very draconian in approach. It is therefore only effective in the short run as protests caused by this method are likely to overturn transport policies.
The recent recommendation by the representative of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy to implement the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Penang, together with road charges, is very much like this method.
The second way is to provide a less disruptive public transport service as an alternative to private car usage.
For examples, elevated forms of public transport that do not take up much road space, and with the least disruption, provide an inviting condition for car users to gradually switch to public transport.
Instead of enforcing burdensome policies, this method allows people to slowly cultivate a preference for public transport.
This method, however, requires longer preparation time and higher cost. The Penang Transport Master Plan, with the elevated LRT, is one such example.
Based on the comparison above, which way do you think is more sustainable and suitable to be implemented in Penang?
That is the question we Penangites have to ask ourselves.
Aaron Lim is an FMT reader.
The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.