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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Sustainable Public Transportation in Penang

Mohd Hasli Hasan

Sustainable Public Transportation in Penang

With an urban history of more than 200 years, George Town has a rich history of land transportation – public transportation has deteriorated from a well-managed, profitable and sustainable electric tram and trolley-bus service into a poorly-managed, loss-making, and unpopular bus and taxi services. Together with a set of policies which promotes ownership and utilisation of private vehicles, the declining state of the public transportation system has resulted into a high private vehicle dependency, subsequently an unsustainable and massive land transportation problem. The criticality of this problem is evidenced when George Town was listed by the World Heritage Watch as one of the ‘100 Most – Endangered Heritage Sites’, with one of the contributing factors being the ‘overwhelming traffic’, which has affected its current bid for UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

Subsequent to the critical study of the current land transportation problems via field trips conducted between 6 to 8 April 2005 and between 18 May and 15 June 2005, this dissertation will explore the feasibility of re-introducing a tram system as a sustainable public transportation solution for the World Heritage Site conservation area in George Town, in addition of addressing its land transportation problems. With original findings from interviews and discussions, analysis of federal and state transportation policies, and reviews of published literatures and best practices, the problems of the land transportation problem in George Town were identified, and a tram system is proposed as the most sustainable transportation option for the conservation area, which complements Penang State government’s overall transportation policies and proposals to address the critical land transportation problem.

The tram proposal consists of a Parry People Mover (PPM) ultra-light hybrid tram system covering approximately a 4.0 km ring route within the core and buffer zones of the heritage site, which at present is deprived of a reliable public transportation service. With a combination of policies to limit private vehicle travel within the conservation area, it is envisaged that the re-introduction of this system will meet the demand of passengers travelling within the conservation area, and address the worsening traffic congestion. In addition to its commercial and technical advantages over other public transportation options, the re-introduction of this system will result in significant environmental improvements and substantial socio-economic benefits for the households, users, and visitors of the area, thus improve and enhance the intrinsic value of the heritage site as a whole.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.