GEORGE TOWN, June 26 – The Penang Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, hailed as a solution to the region’s traffic congestion, is facing skepticism regarding its long-term viability due to ridership concerns. Experts question whether the project will attract enough riders to sustain its operations and financial stability. One of the main concerns raised is the LRT’s route, which bypasses densely populated areas like Relau and major industrial zones along Lebuhraya Dr Lim Chong Eu.
This begs the question: who will be the primary users of the LRT system if it does not serve areas with high worker density? During a briefing on the Penang Local Plan 2030, a consultant described the LRT as a “park and ride” system. However, the alignment of the line from Komtar to the Airport reveals that only four out of the 18 stations have car parks. This challenges the notion of it being a true “park and ride” system, as convenient parking facilities are essential to attract commuters.
Another critical concern is the plan to build high-density apartments near the LRT stations to generate ridership. However, with Penang already facing a property overhang of approximately 5,500 units worth RM3.56 billion, and a stagnant population growth according to the statistics department, the success of this strategy is uncertain. The LRT project seems to rely heavily on attracting external populations to occupy these apartments and utilize the system regularly, which poses a significant risk if this scenario fails to materialize.
The lack of transparency regarding the cost of riding the LRT is another worrisome aspect. Without information on ticket prices and the overall affordability compared to other modes of transport, it is difficult for the public to assess the feasibility and attractiveness of using the LRT for their daily commute. Additionally, if passengers need to rely on other transportation options like Grab for the first and last mile, the total cost of a single LRT journey could reach an estimated RM50.00, further raising concerns about affordability.
In light of these concerns, the People’s Movement Network (PRM) is urging the Penang and Federal governments to reconsider the LRT project and explore more versatile and cost-effective mass transportation options. They point to successful Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems already implemented in cities like Kuching, Johor, and Cyberjaya as alternatives to the outdated LRT concept.
As discussions continue around the Penang LRT project, stakeholders and authorities must carefully evaluate its feasibility, ridership potential, and overall impact on the region’s transportation landscape. The ultimate goal should be to find a sustainable solution that addresses traffic congestion while remaining financially viable and accessible for the local population.