Penang’s coastal ferry service, not for me.

First of all, I love it when I learnt that Penang state government has a Penang Transport Master Plan. I think majority of all Penangites would welcome it. The jam in Penang is getting worse and it has worsened at a faster rate than few years ago. Frankly without a comprehensive plan and implementation, Penang island would have a worst jam than KL soon. Do note that even for point A to Point B in KL, there are many different access roads. In Penang, most of the time, it’s just one. For example, I have even been jammed in Gurney Drive for 2 hours just to drive out after my shopping trip.
Today, I learnt that Penang has suggested a coastal ferry service with multiple terminals to shuttle people and cars from one point on the island to another within the next 10 years. Assuming this can be done, why 10 years? More importantly, why is this necessary? Would Penangites really be taking this coastal ferry service? Seriously, the taxi fares remain exorbitant in Penang and I am not going to take a taxi to go these terminals and if I am not taking the taxi and I am driving, then would there be sufficient car parks? Please bear in mind the it is a huge thing when it comes to space for car parks and the operator of such car parks are likely to charge high parking rates.
If this is primarily to carry cars, perhaps this is workable because there may be some who just hate to jam from one place to another in their car and may prefer to just drive to the nearest terminal to be transported to his destination. The question then is how many of these drivers would be using such a service? Sorry, among my family and a few close friends, the answer is none. Thus far, perhaps they are still willing to drive instead except perhaps during the peak periods. However, if these coastal ferries would only be attractive during peak periods, how would it be able to cover its operation costs? Continuous subsidy is not likely….
Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) chairman and chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Sidik Shaik Osman said the idea of coastal ferry was good if there was a demand for such a mode of public transportation. He is not sure if it would make economic sense because fares are regulated and is always at the minimum. It may be better if the operator can set their own fares.
I think this fare setting, even if the operator can set on their own would still fail. They may not understand how a Penangite would normally think. They want cheaper but they want it better and preferably if it is food, they want it in a bigger piece. Thus, if the fare is too high, no one would be taking it and huge losses would be incurred and it’s the same if fare is set way too low.
It may work however if the state government is courageous enough to do like what the Singaporean government is doing. You want to drive? Then pay the toll when you enter designated busy roads in Island. Once the Penangites feel the pinch, perhaps this Coastal ferry may work. Or else, please focus on other things first. I would rate the tunnel from Gurney to mainland as a higher priority as I could already see Tanjung Bungah being way too jammed in the near future once everything that was planned including reclamation and even affordable housing is completed.
written on 10 May 2015
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