Penang transportation by the numbers

Penang transportation by the numbers

We examine the transport situation in Penang and provide the statistics on the trends and modes of transportation available in the state.

Vehicle re-registration across all types has undergone steady growth albeit with a slowdown occurring in 2012-2013. We witnessed a deceleration of 1.5% for motorcycles and 3.4% for private cars for year-to-year rates in 2013 – probably a direct reflection of rising fuel prices from RM1.75 (May 2009) to RM2.30 (November 2014) for RON 95.

The introduction of taxi booking mobile app “My Teksi” in April 2014 has increased taxi bookings by a staggering 500% 1. On the other hand, plans to increase taxi fares by 70%-80% support the idea that the trend will not continue 2. These conflicting factors leave the future of taxi usage in Penang uncertain.

In the case of buses, there has been perhaps a shift of preference towards private vehicle usage as can be seen from the increase in private car and motorcycle re-registration (Table 1) and declining Rapid Penang users (Figure 2).

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  • [2] be-increased/

Despite falling growth rates, increase in the number of private vehicles has led to a rise in the vehicle-to-population ratio. With a population of about 1.6 million in Penang, the ratio has increased from 1.17 in 2008 to 1.39 in 2014.

Rapid Penang has not been on a favourable trend; the increase in traffic congestion has not encouraged Penangites and/or tourists to use Rapid Penang bus services. Peaking in 2011, the decline in usage conflicts with efforts to increase route and bus availability. The most frequent bus by a large margin is the 101, which plies along Penang’s busiest roads such as Jalan Penang, Jalan Burmah, Jalan Tanjung Tokong, Bagan Jermal and Jalan Macalister, to name a few.

Modes of transport during the morning peak period

Public transport usage at 11% represents the smallest cut of the modal share for morning peak hour (7am-9am) transportation. This is despite efforts by many parties – including both local and federal governments – in encouraging its pick-up. Several factors, from a lack of options apart from Rapid Penang to inconsistency in bus frequency, lack of capacity particularly during weekends and holidays (potentially a logistics issue)and general inaccessibility (unsheltered bus stops, bus stops lacking signage, limited handicap access), have led to a slow pick-up of public transportation.

Transport by means of private vehicles (individually owned cars or motorcycles) remains the most popular mode at a whopping 89% of total usage. This in turn has placed excessive pressure on our road networks and has led to an average speed during peak hours of 30.75km/h in George Town and 32km/h in the Butterworth region in 20113. Our over-reliance on private transportation must be stemmed as compounded annual population growth rate is expected to be at 3.04% till 2020. Both the island and the mainland will not be able to sustain such levels if there are no viable alternatives.

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Taking to the air

Penang International Airport has seen an increase in flights from both international (65.1%) and domestic (58.1%) origins from 2008 to 2013, the exception being an 8.56% decline in 2009 – likely attributed to the 2008 economic crisis lowering travellers’ sentiment to fly and coinciding with plans by the government to expand the airport.

Airport, Penang International Airport remains the hub for many airlines such as AirAsia, Firefly, Cathay Pacific, China Southern Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Wings Air, Thai Airways International, etc. The carriers fly to various international destinations within the Asian region, with Singapore at the top with 75 flights per week followed by Indonesia (Medan) at 68 flights per week. Malaysia Airlines is still the busiest operating airline with 286 flights per week travelling to 11 destinations.

Taking to the sea

Ferry usage for all vehicles has seen a steady decline even from before the dates in the presented data. A possible cause could be the widening and improvement of Penang Bridge, thus reducing congestion and leading to relatively quicker travel times.

At RM7.70 (for cars) for the ferry compared to RM5.60 (the discounted price for Penang users) for the bridge, the latter remains the more economical choice. Lastly, the retiring of aged ferries and the lack of replenishment reduces the overall numbers of available ferries, hence lowering operational capacity.

Other causes could be the introduction of the Bridge Express Shuttle Transit (BEST) on March 1, 2011 for workers travelling between the island and the mainland. With an increasing mainland population and more workers travelling from both sides for work, improved ferry services could help lessen the load on the two bridges.

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