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LETTER | I read with interests the Penang Forum’s call for review of mega-projects under the Penang Transport Master Plan in line with the federal government’s pledge to re-examine all mega projects in Malaysia.

Building mega transport infrastructure is expensive, takes time and may not represent the most efficient way of spending public funds.

Given that the federal government has recently set up “Tabung Harapan Malaysia” fund asking for Malaysians' donations, it is necessary for Penang to review the need for mega-projects even if they will be funded through the sales of land reclamation through the Penang South Reclamation.

The challenge for Penang, as for the rest of Malaysia, will be to plan and advocate for measures that are not only needed now but also cater for the needs of tomorrow (20 to 30 years from now).

The emphasis should be on how best to leverage advanced technologies and do more with public transport to meet rising demand for travel. It will require not only good and evidenced-based planning but also foresight and community involvement.

Transport is evolving at an unprecedented rate. New challenges and opportunities have emerged, many related to advancements in technology and emerging travel trends, for example, ride sharing and car sharing have become more popular ways of travel.

This presents a wide range of opportunities to reshape how we plan and advocate for the future of transport in Penang.

While the LRT is crucial to enable an integrated and sustainable public transport system, (if approved) it will take at least a few years to be built. We should start overhauling the bus service to provide more bus services with a shorter waiting time and travel time making it easier for people to get to the places they want to go.

The ultimate aim should be achieving ‘turn up and go’ services for popular routes and utilising technology to enable on-demand shuttle services to pick up from homes or a convenient nearby location, to take people to the nearest bus or future LRT interchange.

Better public transport services should not be a privilege only for urban folks. It is necessary to develop and provide flexible and cost-effective public transport services to people living in rural areas. This because many of the users are elderly, schoolchildren and persons with disabilities going to hospitals, schools and shopping.

The services need to be affordable and demand responsive. Effectively we are looking at a ride-sharing service to be delivered through larger capacity mini-buses at a fraction of taxi costs.

Over the next decade, we would also see increasing use of disruptive technologies such as ride-sharing, car-sharing, bike-sharing and personal mobility devices. Penang should be open to collaborating with these new technology providers as long as the technology is aligned with the vision and objectives of government and community i.e. improve sustainability.

To create a livable city for all Penangites, we need transport that helps Penang grow in a way that is good for everyone. We need to be aware of the impacts of our transport decisions on the community. We should reach out to the community to understand how transport allows everyone to get around and its impact on how we live, work and play.

It will take a lot of hard work, and we need to work with different groups and organisations to make this happen. But we are improving transport to serve the needs of people.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.