Single mother Cindy Woon, 41, needs to look for a job, and thanks to the free bus service from Bukit Mertajam to Komtar, she can search further afield.
Woon lives in a low-cost flat in Bukit Mertajam with her 14-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter after leaving a turbulent marriage eight years ago.
It took her four years of saving through part-time jobs to afford a motorcycle, which made it possible for her to commute to a shopping complex for work.
Now that the state has started the cross-straits free service with buses that ply half-hourly on workday mornings and evenings, she can venture further to look for a better-paying job.
“I never dreamed of looking for a job on Penang island but now I can.
“I don’t dare ride across Penang Bridge by motorcycle as the wind can be so strong that it shakes the handlebar.
“But now, I can take the bus,” said Woon.
Penang infrastructure and transport committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said the service, which started on Jan 1, would cover a 26km route from Bukit Mertajam bus terminal, passing Bandar Perda and crossing Penang Bridge before ending at Komtar bus terminal.
It is called the Congestion Alleviation Transport (CAT) Bridge Bukit Mertajam-Komtar bus service and is free for all.
“This is an additional service to the existing free CAT Bridge service which connects Seberang Jaya and Bayan Lepas.
“The state also sponsors the MY50 Mutiara Pass (free Rapid Penang bus rides) and the ferry rides,” he said after launching the route.
He said five buses would be used for this route and the travelling time is expected to be 60 to 85 minutes.
The first bus trips from the island and Bukit Mertajam will both depart at 6am on weekdays with a frequency of 30 minutes until 9.30am before pausing.
The service will then resume at 4.50pm at half-hourly intervals again, with the last trips leaving at 7pm from Bukit Mertajam and 7.25pm from Komtar.
On weekends, the frequency tapers to hourly trips.
Zairil said the overall cost of the CAT Bridge Bukit Mertajam-Komtar bus service, RM724,000, would be borne by the state.