Monday, March 4, 2013

Penang: Tram System A Better Alternative?

My attention was drawn to a headline in this morning’s Google News, Malaysian edition. I read that Penang’s Chief Minister is advocating a tram system for Penang!

I live in Melbourne. It is a city of trams. It used to be a great mass transit system, but NOT any longer. It was a sight to behold when there were not too many cars on the road. But now it is causing bottlenecks especially during peak hours.

First of all, you need to lay tracks on the existing roads and the labyrinths of cables that have to be strung overheads are not pretty. More importantly, the system requires discipline on the part of all motorists. The moment a moving tram signals that is about to stop, all traffic it must come to a complete stop to facilitate the exit and boarding of tram passengers. And many of these stops are located right at the traffic junctions. Because of tram lines, Melbourne has “hooked” turning junctions which can be totally intimidating even to local motorists, let alone the unfamiliar users. Melbourne commuters are a very patient lot. Penang roads are narrower and Malaysians are well known to zigzag their way around. Tram tracks are also dangerous to cyclists; things can turn fatal when their wheels are caught in the grove.

Judging the number of commuters the system carries, I suspect it is also not that efficient.

Novelty? Maybe. Great transportation system? Doubtful!

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