GEORGE TOWN, Sept 23 — A predilection for cars means that 80 per cent of transport funding is used to cater for the needs of 20 per cent of society, according to a public transport proponent today.
World Car Free Day founder Eric Britton pointed out this uneven distribution in public expenditure was an issue in many modern cities, including Penang.
“It should be the other way around where only 20 per cent funding is needed and it can fulfil the needs of 80 per cent of the society,” he said during a media focus group under the Sustainable Penang: Toward a New Mobility Agenda two-week programme this morning.
In a bid to change that, Britton is here for the two-week Sustainable Penang: Towards a New Mobility Agenda.
The programme, which will consist of daily events such as more focus groups and dialogue sessions between Britton and various groups, from non-governmental organisations to relevant government agencies, will hopefully give rise to 21 small sustainable transportation projects that could be implemented in the next 15 months in the state.
“We want to work towards the planned 2015 Penang conference on Implementing Sustainable Transport in Smaller Asian Cities so we hope to have something to share by then,” he said.
According to Britton, Penang’s transport system is “over-built” and “poorly used” as most infrastructure was catered to those who travel by cars.
“Why not build infrastructure for the groups that don’t travel by cars such as the disabled, the very young or the very old? When infrastructure is built for them and systems put to ease their mobility, the system will suit everyone, not just one group of people,” he said.
He said if Penang were to continue to be driven by its fast-paced automobile industry, it will soon end up as a city that is not only unsustainable but also not liveable.
He expressed his disappointment at the fast pace with which Penang has adapted to what he termed as a “car culture” where there are more cars on the roads than expected.
“Now that Penang is in this unacceptable present trend, it will be a challenge to change it and this will require the participation of civil societies to get the message across,” he said.
Amongst the proposals to be considered to deal with such challenges include removing half of the more than 8,000 traffic lights in the state.
“We are in a start and stop system so it would be great for Penang to remove half the traffic lights currently installed and have in place a better traffic flow system,” he said.
Other suggestions he came up with that could make up the 21 projects include having a dedicated bicycle lane, creating laws and infrastructure to allow safer mobility for those who don’t travel by cars, lowering the speed limits so that motorcyclists can share the roads safely with cars and letting each project be a learning experience for all road users to change mindsets and trends.
“For these projects to succeed, all large transportation projects should be set aside and the funds be used to implement these smaller projects which will in the long run prove to be more effective in managing the transportation and traffic flow system,” Britton said.
The two-week programme is from September 22 until October 5.
For a full list of the events, visit www.sustainablepenang.wordpress.com.
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