TRANSIT notes this article which states that the Penang government has approved an allocation for an additional 6 buses to operate the Bridge Express Shuttle Transit (B.E.S.T.) service between Sebarang Prai and the Bayan Lepas Free Trade Zone.
This is an increase of RM600,000 per year to the investment from the Penang Government to hire RapidPenang to operate the B.E.S.T. The total investment will now be more than RM1million per year.
Now TRANSIT has some questions about the B.E.S.T. service, which we will post below. First, read the article:
More buses for BEST (The Star)
Thursday January 20, 2011
SIXTEEN buses will be used for Penang’s Bridge Express Shuttle Transit (BEST) park and ride system, up from the 10 proposed earlier.
The state executive council approved the six additional buses at its meeting yesterday, state Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said.
He had submitted the proposal for the additional buses following a request from the Free Industrial Zone Penang Companies Association (Frepenca) that the waiting time for the buses be reduced.
Chow had, on Tuesday, said the original schedule was one bus every half-hour and that the additional buses would reduce the waiting time to 15 minutes but would cost the state government an additional RM600,000 per year.
“With 16 buses, we will be spending more than RM1mil per year but it will be money well spent to reduce traffic congestion on the bridge and FIZ,” Chow said.
He said Frepenca had also requested that the proposed timetable be reviewed, so that the buses start running earlier than 6.20am.
“They also feel that buses running after 8am would be redundant as employees would have started work by then,” he said.
He said BEST would not only benefit its commuters but also employers and other road users indirectly.
Citing an example, he said multi-national companies would be able to convert parking bays on their premises for more productive uses.
“Other road users will enjoy smoother traffic on the roads if BEST is a success.
“Also, BEST passengers will save up to RM200 monthly on the Penang Bridge toll and petrol,” he said.
BEST, which will ferry employees living on the mainland but working in the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ), will start in March.
Chow said although the system was in place and could be launched earlier, the state had decided to wait a month to conduct trial runs.
“This is to ensure that we don’t face any teething problems. Although everything is ready, we will use this time to fine-tune the service,” he said.
Some 1,000 employees are expected to use the free service. Commuters only have to pay for the parking at the designated park and ride sites on the mainland.
As we have said before, we are pleased to see that the Penang government has taken the lead among state governments to invest in public transport using a secure system of contracting out.
This system is more effective than a traditional system where the government owns and operates the public transport service because it encourages private enterprise and can stimulate competition and efficiency.
This is the second time that Penang has taken the lead in public transport investment. They are the first government in Malaysia to introduce a Transport Council to discuss and share knowledge regarding transport issues.
The next step that TRANSIT hopes to see is a formal adoption of our ‘4-Stakeholders’ Model for public transport, in which the government, public transport operator, public and government asset-owners come together to form a local public transport authority.
Right now the only thing that the Penang Transport Council does not have is a continued presence from Prasarana and RapidPenang. But even without their presence, they have accomplished a great deal and showed that government and public transport operators can cooperate and work together to improve public transport.
Now, here are the questions that we have.
- Is there something wrong with the existing Factory Bus / Worker Bus (Bas Pekerja) system such that the government has decided to contract out the service to RapidPenang.
- Alternatively, is B.E.S.T. designed to complement or compete with the existing system?
- Did the Penang Government introduce a Request for Proposals and tender the service out through open tender, or was RapidPenang selected directly from a set of criteria?
- How much money has the Penang government budgeted (say, over the next 5 years) to pay for the B.E.S.T. service?
- Has the Penang Government spoken to the Penang Bridge Concessionaire (as well as the concessionaire for the 2nd Penang Bridge) about introducing bus lanes and special toll booths for buses – so buses do not have to slow down and wait for existing traffic?