Saturday, October 1, 2011

Transit Oriented Land Use Policy

‘Land use planning is critical to transport. Where places (e.g. shops, workand other services) are located in relation to where people live is a significantfactor in determining how much people need or want to travel. It is vital thatsustainable transport is a central consideration from the early stagesof local planning – for example whenever new houses or retail areasare being developed.’

Without integrating transportation with land use planning, Penang public transit faces the daunting challenge of creating strategies for policies, technologies, infrastructure, and business models that pave a path to the future. The challenge lies in creating strategies that lead to scalable solutions for meeting growth in demand, including strategies affecting the communication, navigation and transit oriented development. We need a transit oriented land use policy that gear towards transportation improvements to make land more accessible and so increase the likelihood that it will be developed or redeveloped. Unfortunately, we only have policies that make our transportation worst and our traffic congestion become chaotic.

The wanton changes that made to the development density against the permissible maximum density with total disregard to traffic management is contributing to serious environmental problems. The type of development envisaged by Lim Guan Eng administration is characterized by high densities, few transportation options, and rigid separation of residences, jobs, and shops, that will exacerbate air and water pollution, habitat loss, and a decline in ecosystem functions. It can also increase the demands on the road system and reduce the efficiency of the system, as the same number of people and same level of economic activity generates more and longer trips. Managing these challenges is particularly demanding when transportation and land use are planned separately, as they are in most localities.

The situation is so bad that it led Jimmy Lim Cheok Siang to write the following in Anil’s blog:
Consider this.

  1. The road around the Island has been there ever since Independence. The stretch from Tanjong Bungah where the Hin Buses stopped midway to Telok Bahang is next to almost impossible to construct. It has been that way since the British days. It was constructed for the use of villages e.g.Tanjong Bungah, Batu Ferringhi, Telok Bahang, Moonlight Bay, Miami Beach, Lovers’ Isle Beach and many others.
  2. That stretch of road for all intend maybe classified as a “cul-de-sac” (a dead end road). Short of circumnavigating the Island via Sg Pinang and Balik Pulau, it is the only way “in and out” from the Northern Beaches.
  3. By JKR standard and all good engineering design all major all arterial roads are designed to carry certain permissible traffic loads and volumes. Base on current existing stds in Malaysia what would the maximum capacity of traffic volume the existing coastal road is able to take?
  4. Ask any reasonably intelligent traffic engineer that question. Then you begin to see that there are too many buildings and cars that a ‘dead end road’ can carry. That being the case how do you justify permitting so much development when the local infra-structure is un able to support it???
  5. Prior to any approval by the Authorities concerned there is always a need as a condition for approval that the developer must show that there is sufficient water and electricity and adequate public access to and from the development. Based on Items 3 and 4 above, the answer needs no rocket scientist to tell us.
  6. If the only access is inadequate for the increased volume of traffic why are we allowing more developments there like there was no tomorrow? In view of this it would be appropriate that there be a halt to all developments until one or two tunnels are built through the hills to convert the cul-de-sac coastal road into a loop for alternate access.
  7. Now if there is already insufficient space for road widening where would you find space for bicycle lanes for looping the Island? Solve one problem first before creating another. Is that so difficult for anyone to understand? There must be simple ‘logic’……O dear.

Land use and transportation are inextricably linked for which we need to find way to understand and respond to this linkage in a way that fulfills natural resource and quality-of-life objectives while fulfilling community economic objectives.

There are a total of 4 commissioned reports on a transport plan for Penang, namely Penang Strategic Development Plan 2, Halcrow Urban Transport Study Report 1998, JICA and QOL reports. All these reports have remained a pipedream as they never got to see the light of the day. Now the Penang administration under the leadership of Lim Guan Eng want to commission yet another report which is tout as the first comprehensive study on Penang’s transportation.
Will it makes any different when there is no efford to integrate transportation with land use planning?
So how many master plan we should have before we realise that we need a proper transit oriented land use policy in place to make the transit master plan become meaningful otherwise you can expect all these plans to remain a pipedream as they never got to see the light of the day. Too shame to show!

The 4 reports have been shrouded in secrecy after completion. It is high time for the state government to declassify those reports and make it public. The transportation master plan should be developed through a systematic review of existing transportation conditions, previously identified deficiencies, land use patterns, zoning and land use regulations, combined with input from local, regional and state stakeholders.

The plan should be concluded with a set of transportation and land use recommendations that arise out of the analysis and through stakeholder input. It should not be developed in a close door manner by a professional group of consultants without involving the relevant stakeholders .

It is unrealistic for a comprehensive transportation master plan to be written without integrating the land use policy. It is hard to convince skeptic that the state government is sincere in solving the traffic woes of Penangites. The whole exercise smack of publicity blitz to improve the public standing of Lim Guan Eng.

It is imperative for the state government to identify and establish all major transit corridors where all high density development take place. The state government need to acknowledging the lack of public funding for large scale infrastructure improvements and should forget about monorail type of system which is hardly affordable. Innovative funding mechanism should be identified. Private developer contributions for off-site improvements should be utilised to finance infrastructure improvement along all the major transit corridors

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