Cheaper to operate and maintain
It is clear that choosing to build an LRT and monorail system will impose much heavier financial burden on the people of Penang than a tram and BRT based system. However, we must also consider the operational and maintenance costs (O&M) which for LRT and monorail are also two to three times higher!
Using a more realistic estimate of 25m a year ridership in 2022 (based the PPHPD figures of SRS and input from leading tram companies), using the data available and the average LRT fare in KL, we have constructed a comparison between the O&M costs of an LRT & tram for the line between George Town and the airport. The following infographic is meant to be illustrative rather than definitive.
YB Chow has indicated that fare box revenue would not cover the running cost of the LRT, and that additional revenue would come from advertising and station property related activities. In Japan, as much as 50% of transit operator income comes from property and leisure sectors. While many cities around the world seek to emulate the lessons from Japan, there are a host of political, historical, and cultural differences to consider. Not to mention the push factor policies which have been implemented to move people away from private transportation modes. Fuel prices are high at RM4.25 per litre (May, 2016), Japanese law requires motorists to prove they have access to a local parking space, and under Japan's 1957 Parking Law, on-street parking is banned. A monthly parking ticket in Tokyo can cost in excess of RM3,000!
In KL, Prasarana’s non-fare revenue is less than 15%.
Based on the average ticket fare in KL and 25 million annual riders, the LRT would need to find RM82.5m from alternative revenue sources in year 1! Equal to 48% of its running costs!
Penang will therefore need to match the Japanese and outperform Prasarana in non-fare revenue generation by a factor of three!
Keeping it simple
The SRS proposal seeks to build an LRT in the first phase, but in the second phase will build 2 monorail lines on the island and 1 on the mainland and also a heritage tram in the George Town World Heritage Site. As each of these rail systems is not connected, each line will require its own depot and the differing systems will require different parts, different maintenance regimes and different skill sets for staff. Building a single modern tram system simplifies the operation and will significantly reduce the overall running costs of the public transport system, making it more sustainable in the longer term, reducing the likelihood of the government needing to bail it out.