Principle 4: Prioritise public transport
Fourth, prioritise building a robust public transport system over road expansion. The latter only serves to undermine the former. For a public transport system to succeed, we need both the pull and the push factors. Both Halcrow and SRS agree that reaching a 40% public transport modal share will not happen by building public transport alone, however only Halcrow came up with suggestions for limiting the future growth of traffic, while SRS is planning for our traffic to continue growing at 3-4% per year until 2030. New road-building should be extremely selective and cautious to improve local connectivity and feeder routes but should not compete with public transport priorities.
Imposing charges on private vehicle users is a well-tried market-pricing mechanism. In fact, the charges imposed on people who still prefer to use roads can be transferred to subsidise public transport travel. Contrary to the argument of Lim Guan Eng, the chief minister of Penang, that such a policy is undemocratic and elitist, the opposite is true. The rich and those who choose to use private vehicles contribute more to pollution and carbon emissions than the masses who take public transportation. Imagine, a tram carrying hundreds of passengers will remove hundreds of single-occupancy vehicles from the road, reducing carbon emissions. Private vehicle users generate higher external costs for society and should pay for their actions. This is eminently democratic and fair. Climate change is upon us and Penang should be setting its own carbon emission targets and streamlining development and transport policies to achieve them.
Inclusive transport planning means you do not privilege car owners/users, but prioritise public transport that is more comprehensive in coverage and more accessible to a wider population, including the low-income, the elderly, and people with disabilities.