Saturday, November 13, 2010

Solution for School Run Traffic Congestion in Penang

School Run is a modern phenomenon associated with parents taking their children to school by car. The way parents park cars near the school gates and drop off and pick up their children have responsible for a large amount of the traffic problems at school run rush hours. Traffic congestion normally reduced tremendously during school holiday. Due to a no convenient bus service available, a lot of parents have opt to drive their own children to school. A further problem in recent times has been an increasing level of choice by parents as to which school their children go to. Obviously the inevitable result is that kids may have further to travel and are more likely to require a bus or a lift in the car.

Solving traffic congestion due to school run should be given a priority as the first step toward bus transit oriented development. A simple way to solve this problem is to prohibit parents from
drop off and pick up their children near school gates. Only school buses and shuttle buses should be allowed to drop off and pick up school children near school gates. The question now is how to implement this solution without causing any problem or controversy.

School children should be ferried by school buses or shuttle buses between schools and designated bus drop off and pick up point. Bus pick-up and drop-off point should be modeled after the Rest & Service Areas (RSA) of North South Expressway. A public library should be set up at each bus drop off and pick up point to provide a safe and comfort environment for school children to wait for their parents or buses. A special bus boarding bay should be designed with a direct link to the library to provide a convenient and secure access. The boarding bay should be equipped with platforms level with the bus floor to allow for secure and rapid boarding and alighting. Only when parents' safety fears is tackled will this solution become workable.

If at one km radius of each school there is several bus pick-up and drop-off points, the traffic that used to converge near school gates will be diverted to a point without causing major traffic congestion. The days of hordes of parents creating traffic snarls around schools could become a thing of the past if the state government willing to build bus drop off and pick up points at the vicinity of schools and provide free shuttle buses to ferry school children between schools and designated bus drop-off and pick up points. Parents can drop off and pick up their children from the bus pick-up and drop-off point without causing traffic problem.

For public transit to be working, it's time to try out different approaches to manage our road network more efficiently, help tackle congestion and provide children and parents with healthy and safe alternatives to the car. Young people deserve safe and affordable travel to education, leisure and employment. The journeys people make when young will influence their preferences and habits in adulthood.

The reason I write this article is to further emphasis the important role that bus pick-up and drop-off point play in transit oriented development. A point that Lim Guan Eng administration seem to be unable to comprehend.

Bus pick up and drop off point is one of the features that encourage transit ridership. Without proper parking space for private vehicles waiting to pick up commuters or without a place to drop off commuters, traffic will become chaos. A Bus pick up and drop off point should be designed to provide easy exit from, and entry to, the street. It should has sufficient capacity to accommodate long queue of buses at rush hour.

Any transit plan to be implemented should be self financing as the state government will has difficulty to secure funding from the federal government. The state government should make it a requirement for property developers to incorporate bus pick up and drop off point as front end of their project as part of the effort towards transit oriented development. This will save the state government substantial amount of investment money for building the facilities. Only the maintenance of the infrastructure should be paid for and maintained by the municipality with public funds.

The state government should not approve anymore new township with multiple storey terrace shoplots like those at Bandar Baru Air Hitam which is land consuming. All those commercial outlets should be built at the bus pick up and drop off points. The appeal of bus pick up and drop off points for commercial activity is readily apparent. It would not be difficult to persuade property developers to incorporate bus pick up and drop off point in their property design.

Image if a Bus pick up and drop off point like Tapah Service and rest area of North South Expressway with features such as comfortable waiting areas, venders selling refreshments and periodicals , and washrooms, is build in front of a mixed-use residential or commercial area. Not only it serve as a transit station, it is also serve as a rest area with scenic view for leisure and recreational activities. Such activities around the station enlarge its scope from being a transit stop to an enlivened public space in the city.

If Lim Guan Eng is smart, he should not hesitate to adopt this transit solution to build a City Area Transit System (CATS) that gear towards transit oriented development. Penang can only become an International City if it is accessible and livable.

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