MOBILITY is the backbone of civilisation. Roads have been the main infrastructure for land travel throughout human history.
The importance of roads in improving mobility is universally agreed by city planners. The disagreement is over how to use them. All modes of ground transportation – from horse carriages to bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses and lorries – need roads.
Roads bring people together, expand empires, create cities and facilitate advancement of knowledge and discoveries.
Therefore, a feasible transport master plan that relieves traffic congestion in the short-term and is capable of increasing public mobility in the long-term needs to be supported by a good road network. Such a network is integral to public transportation.
The Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) is a good example of such a project. The master plan went through seven years of preparation before being approved in January 2016.
Over the seven years, there were two major modifications before the current version of the master plan was adopted. These were the result of consultation and discussion with relevant state and federal agencies. Some components were dropped, some adopted, and new ones were added.
For instance, seven tram routes on the island were dropped. This was for good reason as it involved land acquisition and underground utility adjustment that would incur more cost than estimated, and potentially increase traffic congestion during and after the implementation.
The undersea tunnel was included as it will enhance connection between the island and the mainland, opening up a strategic corridor in the northern region of the peninsula covering Seberang Perai Utara, Kedah, southern Perlis, and northern Perak.
The initial study was conceived as a short-term solution, up until 2030. A long-term transport master plan for Penang needs to outlive our generation in order to secure the future for subsequent generations. Therefore, the adopted PTMP looked to 2050 and beyond.
All the critical components are meant for a comprehensive network to increase public mobility in the long run. This includes the proposed major roads.
To say that “more roads will lead to more cars on the road” is wrong. Many studies that claim to have proven “the increase of roads leads to the increase of cars on the road” demonstrate only a correlation but not causation.
Credible statisticians, scientists, and thinkers know that the occurrence of two variables does not establish a causal relationship. Rather, it is the convergence of institutional, social, economic, political, and personal factors that induces an increase in private car usage.
With the efficient implementation of a good transport policy, having more roads does not lead to more cars on the road.
Some of the significant factors that can lead to more vehicles on the road are their availability in the market, the consumer’s ability to purchase cars, the facility of car loans, the need for mobility and personal comfort, owning a car as a status symbol and having infrastructure conducive for private car usage.
If one or two of these factors are taken away and even if good public transport is lacking, private car usage will not increase with more roads.
For good reason, China is reviving the ancient Silk Road, popularly known as ‘One Belt, One Road’.
Like all great civilisations, developing a new road network is a must to secure the future for a state.