Old Research Proposal (too good to dump)

A Research Proposal (2013):

A study of Environmental Sustainability of Johor Bahru in the Context of Urban Land Transport Energy Consumption

Principal Investigator
Ariva Sugandi Permana, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Built Environment
Researcher, Sustainability Research Alliance
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

Norsiah Abdul Aziz, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Built Environment
Researcher, Sustainability Research Alliance
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia



The catchphrase of “sustainable development” has long been a burning issue. The phrase has also inspired urban planning field by, for instance, coining sustainable urban development and sustainable cities. Thus a sustainable city cannot be separated from the need on the compliance with environmental sustainability.

Numerous indicators can be used to assess the environmental sustainability of a city. However, this study focuses on the transport energy consumption, with a ground that Johor Bahru transportation system is seemingly predominated by private transport. From the viewpoint of sustainable transportation system, this situation is certainly not sustainable.

Given such a situation, this research will try to address resources consumption in an urban area i.e. energy of the city curtailing from transport energy users’ domain within urban arena, and try to identify energy consumption of transportation domain. This issue is critically important as the world’s oil will completely dry up within about 40 years from now if current world’s oil consumption, which is about 80 million barrels per day, keeps increasing. This bleak future, like or not, must be faced by next generation. As a wise preceding generation, the world’s citizens must take necessary action to cope with this incoming energy crisis. One of the answers is energy efficiency in any sectors and domains including urban area, since cities are major energy consumers.

Energy and Anthropogenic Activities in Cities

Cities are the places where numerous activities are undergoing. Cities are often the most important sources of greenhouse gases, the key users of ozone-depleting substances, and parasites (Kennedy et al., 2009; Leitmann, 1999; Borhidi, 1989). However, in optimistic viewpoint, cities provide administrative, political, commercial, and other services. Cities have the potential to combine safe and healthy living conditions and culturally rich and enjoyable lifestyle with remarkably low levels of energy consumption, resource-use and wastes (Weisz and Steinberger, 2010; Satterthwaite, 1999).

With their numerous activities and functions, cities will require energy to keep up with all activities of the citizens. Transportation is the most vital element of the city, without transportation city will not function, moreover without good transportation infrastructures and facilities city will not sustain in the viewpoint of urban environment, although there are much more city’s elements to satisfy sustainability requirement leading to sustainable city. Transportation transfers people and goods from one point to the others. In many countries, transportation infrastructure is increasingly devoted to automobiles. This increased use of the private automobile is a major contributor to air quality problems and global climate change.

The most popular energy used by various transportation modes in many countries particularly in developing world are non-renewable energy sources such as oil and natural gas. These kinds of fuels are nowadays the cheapest and easiest to acquire, because of this the use of these non-renewable energy is far and wide, as the results, world consumption on oil and natural gas are increasing over time, likewise, the production also takes the same fashion. It is not surprising if the world’s reserve of non-renewable energy is exponentially decreasing. Table 2 shows that transportation sector is the most significant energy consumption compared with other sectors, in some countries.

Everything may happen in cities from the worst to the best. This testimony has been proved by the truth of city as parasites (Kennedy et al., 2009; Leitmann, 1999; Borhidi, 1989) as well as another fact that city has the potential to combine all perfect qualities (Deakin and Waer, 2011; Satterthwaite, 1996). City as parasites are generally making a sense. Assuming that the urban energy end-users make use of energy as reflected in Table 1, and energy users domain is represented by home-road-office e.g. origin and destination or in other word: residential and transportation, it is then noticeable that energy saving in these sectors will make significant contribution to the resources conservation.

As table 1 shows, it follows that combination of those two sectors e.g. residential and transportation, it will bind into quantitatively dominant energy users. This is an important starting point of this research. In any countries either developed or developing countries with broad range of gross national product, those two combinations are always predominately exist.

Table 1 Actual Energy Use by Sectors in Selected Developed and Developing Countries

Different transport modes make use of different level of energy consumptions. Public transport requires less energy per passenger kilometer travel compared with private cars. The choice of private transport is stimulated by the absence of a good, convenient and efficient public transport system in urban areas, as a result, there has been an increasing trend towards more ownership and utilization of private vehicles to travel which is more energy intensive and polluting, but also more expensive to the economy. The absence of good public transit system is not the single case. An example of Bangkok shows that emphasizing road infrastructure development without adequate attention to land use has encouraged Bangkok as automobile city (Rujopakarn, 2003).

In Malaysia’s case, land transport is the main consumer of energy in the transportation sector. The share of road transport in the total energy consumption of the transport sector in 2008 was the highest at 78.6%, followed by air transport (12.9%), maritime transport (8.1%) and railways (0.4%). It was also noted that the fast pace of motorization in Malaysia was due to four factors namely increasing per capita GDP, growing population and urbanization, increasing subsidies on transport fuels and promotion of domestic automobile industry by the government (Mustapa et al., 2011). In Johor Bahru, the factor was added by one namely inadequate public transportation system.

In different view, it is argued that eventually societies may come to welcome a transport system in which access, not excess, is the predominant feature (Currie and Walls, 2008).  The urban planning should actually be able to discourage the need of unnecessary motorized travel as well as the excessive use of private transport over public transport by appropriate planning intervention, such as encouraging mixed land use to discourage the use of vehicles for shorter distance travel and creating pedestrian friendly environment to promote walking and cycling. It is possible to recreate “walking city” area within modern cities (Newman and Kenworthy, 1999). These premises show that reducing motorized transport dependency are not single feature variables rather than simultaneous amalgamation of some different parameters which require trade-off to accomplish optimal conditions of automobile-independent city.

Transport Energy as Essential Research Arena on Sustainability

Previous discussion reveals an undisputable fact that transportation is the largest energy consumer in Malaysia, where the rooms for reducing transport energy are widely opening. On the other hand, sustainable urban transportation system needs minimizing energy consumption and vehicular emissions. In the meantime, the use of private transport as the predominant transport modal choice in Johor Bahru seems steadily increasing, due to five factors previously discussed (see Mustapa, 2011). By this premise, research on road transport energy consumption in Johor Bahru is essential and it has been observed as important research arena of sustainability.

Transportation, as one of urban energy user domain, is generated by non-proximity of origin and destination. The total proximity of origin and destination is impossible, since it is impractical to accommodate thousands different people with thousands origins and destinations, however, optimizing this proximity is still possible to be undertaken through mixed land use, settlement size and compact city (Woodcock et al., 2011; William et al., 2000; Friedman, 1996. Solutions toward urban energy savings of transportation can be undertaken, among other, through urban containment, higher density cities, promotion of public transport, and reduced dependent on the motor car (Manfren et al., 2011; Breheny, 1995).

Theoretical Background on Transport Energy Domain

The purpose of this chapter is to examine and critically look at the current issues and debates that are pertinent to this study. This discussion is expected to identify the gaps as well as the overlaps of this particular realm of study and at the same time supports the process of analysis toward expected objectives and outcomes of the research. The study covers transport energy user’s domain. With adequate comprehension on the energy users’ behavior within this domain, the concept of energy efficiency in city could be appropriately understood. Urban area is in fact a complex domain of energy users, therefore it would be too complicated and beyond manageability of this research.

Spatial Urban Domain in Relation with Energy Efficiency

Space is one of the most important elements of an urban area, because of this quality a lot of urban problems are directly or indirectly related to urban space. One of the most prominent aspects, which are related to space, is that spatial arrangement in an urban domain would reflect the actual appearance of the city. To promptly identify an urban area, it can be easily observed from manifestation of its spatial arrangement or organization. Street orientation, the uses of urban land for different purposes, circulation pattern, open spaces and parks are the most visible showcase of a city. Spatial element may also to more unnecessary urban energy wastes.

Ihlanfeldt (1994) outlined three hypotheses that influenced resource consumption. Although the study was on black employment, but the essence shows that spatial segregation that separates origin and destination leads to energy inefficiency in urban area.

A study undertaken by Gottlieb and Lentnek (2001) discusses commuting distances for geographical sub-groups. In this study, a transport analysis was developed and confirmed that the origin-destination separation consumes more transport energy. By taking this spatial issue into consideration, the causes of urban energy efficiency will then be focused on one major energy consumer within urban realm, namely transportation. It is believed that in the study area, transportation sector plays a crucial role on the environmental sustainability of the city.

Energy User’s Domain of Transportation and Urban Energy Efficiency

The unsuitable use of the land is normally generated by inconsistent land use planning and implementation or it can also be caused by the absence of formal and legal urban land use planning because the pace of urbanization is far ahead of authority’s capability to develop effective and responsive land use planning and implementation, as a result, spatial incompatibility is ubiquitously exist, and undesirable impacts such as energy inefficiency occurs. Finneran et al. (1984) identified that in the residential area where multi-family buildings are dominant the use of energy per unit area tends to be lesser than single-family buildings, this is because of common walls and ceilings in apartment hence reduce surface-to-volume ratio, but at the same time, multistory apartment may need elevator for accessibility, it will increase the use of energy. A trade-off should be undertaken, wherever appropriate, to gain optimal use of energy.

Segregation between origin and destination would create the needs of travel to connect both. Travel generates trips for various purposes and sometimes unnecessary trips which could actually be avoided. There are some trips identified in terms of physical mobility of urban people. General characteristics of urban mobility that have impacts to the transportation were worked out by Meyer and Miller (2001) as:  work trips, shopping trips; social or recreation trips, business trips, and school trips. Hanson (1995) further elaborates the individual trips purposes into several categories, although the actual categories may vary from study to study and thus from city to city; according to her observation, most classifications include the following common trip types:

  • Work trips are made to person’s place of employment e.g. public or private institution, manufacturing plants, retail stores or shopping malls;
  • Shopping trips are trip to any retail outlet, regardless the size of the store and whether or not the purchase was actually made;
  • Social trips are made to social activities e.g. parties or visiting friends;
  • Recreation trips are made to entertainment, cultural or other recreational facilities;
  • School trips are trips made by students at any level to a learning institution;
  • Business trips are usually defined to include trips made from a place of employment to other destination in the city.

Those trips are apparently generated by incompatible transportation as energy users domain, provided that urban travel needs are always created regardless the presence of origin-destination separation, with sufficiently far-away travel distance separation, motorized transport will be required, then urban energy transport needs are started. As a comparison, take a situation of no origin-destination separation or within walking distance of separation as a benchmark, in this case motorized transport will not be required and consequently no energy will be required for transportation purposes. With those two conditions, energy efficiency potential is actually there, but a skeptical question follows, is it a kind of energy inefficiency due to incompatible energy user domain? To what extent energy inefficiency due to incompatible energy user domain of transportation can be optimized vis-à-vis the difficulties to minimize the incompatibility itself? The second question may lead to dubious efforts to achieve urban energy efficiency and the achievement becomes insignificant, however with growing energy crises concerns from all city stakeholders, this skeptical concern can be set aside. The incompatibility of energy user domain of transportation will complement one another with built-environmental unsuitability in creating urban energy inefficiency. If domain of transportation incompatibility is created due to, among others, inappropriate planning and implementation of urban land use, while built-environmental incompatibility is created because of deficiency in the adjustment with nature and the utilization of renewable natural energy resources, therefore.

Spatially-related Sources of Energy Inefficiency

The movement pattern of urban citizens can be analyzed through the existing urban form identification with respect to origin-destination hypothesis. There are various types urban forms with origin and destination as center of attention (Permana, 2005). Four general types of origin-destination pattern of urban form are identified; these forms affect urban physical mobility and lead to urban energy wastefulness.

Those four urban form models are star-type polycentric with origin-destination (O-D) separation, concentric with origin-destination separation, polycentric multi-linkage with partial origin-destination separation, and full origin-destination separation. Refer to Figure 1 to 4.

Energy inefficiency created by spatially-related source is analyzed through those above mentioned urban forms, it is examined by looking into basic hypothesis of the travel generating factor i.e. origin and destination either journey for work, recreation or other business. The following figures show schematic diagram on different type of origin-destination pattern. Each situation creates different traffic loads –means more energy losses– at their linkage, providing that equal traffic volumes exist at each situation.

Figure 1 is signified by separation of origin and destination, with single linkage of origin-destination and also single destination. This pattern will create the following situations:

  • Highly transport dependent to perform a travel from origin to destination;
  • It requires sufficient linkage to connect origin and destination;
  • Traffic congestion potential as traffic volume increase;
  • As the consequences, energy required for transport is unavoidable, and more energy losses are significant due to traffic congestion;
  • Potential urban energy saving by reducing distance between origin and destination.

Figure 2 shows concentric land use pattern where destination (e.g. Central Business District, CBD) is located in the center, encircled respectively by high density residential area and low density residential area. This pattern creates traffic situations:

  • Moderately transport dependent, since in some situations motorized transport are not required;
  • It requires sufficient linkages, because of limited linkages exists;
  • Traffic congestion potential, as the urban area grows;
  • Energy is required for transportation;

Energy saving potential can be undertaken through mass transport system and mix land use.

Figure 2 Concentric Pattern with O-D Separation

Assumption of the above figures is that CBD is assumed to be the place for working and shopping, therefore traffic generated at the linkages of origin-destination is due to serving that purposes. Pattern shows in Figure 2-1 will lead to pattern as shown in Figure 2 in further development of land use, since concentric residential areas will grow peripherally then connecting each other to form concentric pattern. This has been happening in some cities in developing countries such as Indonesia where concentric pattern of the urban form spreads over the city beyond walking distance. As the results, motorized travel dependence is high; the situation is also worsened by the absence of pedestrian friendly environment.

Further development of urban form that affects travel pattern is shown in the following figures.

Figure 3 shows general pattern of polycentric form, while some independent sub-centers are developed. Those sub-centers are linked each other causes more distributed traffic load. Lesser traffic load to CBD also happens because of independent sub-centers. In sub-center itself some motorized transport are not required since the proximity of origin and destination exist. This situation leads to the following traffic condition:

  • Some reductions in travel needs;
  • Reduce traffic load to CBD;
  • The use of energy for transportation is less.

This pattern applies the principles of neighborhood development in sub center (William et al., 2000), with the condition that standardized complement of public facilities exist (Friedman, 1996). More distributed traffic load will probably be achieved if polycentric pattern of urban form exist, and with the assumption that all linkages are of the same quality. This situation must be supported by independent sub-centers as satellite city or sub-urban. This trend is now found at new development of housing estates in some regions in Indonesia.

Another pattern of urban form that becomes a source of urban energy inefficiency is full origin-destination separation. Figure 4 shows a quasi-random physical mobility generated by full separation of origin-destination with multiple origins and destinations. This pattern leads to the following traffic conditions:

    • Traffic randomly distribute among existing destinations, it will depend on the choice of citizen;
    • Traffic can be arranged by employing traffic management at the linkages of each origin and destination;
    • Urban energy inefficiency potential is significant, unless mass rapid transportation system is in place.

Figure 4 Full O-D Separation Polycentric Pattern

This pattern must be supported by sufficient origin-destination linkages otherwise urban physical mobility will not be running well. On the other hand, decongested and free flow traffic will stimulate more traffic to generate; it means more urban transport energy consumed. In this particular pattern of urban form, good traffic management along with mass rapid transportation system will be a therapy toward urban energy efficiency.

It is true that making adjustment to urban form does not itself constitute direct energy conservation, but rather a facilitating strategy which makes possible variety of conservation activities. For example, changes in the relative positions of residences and workplaces make it possible for transport energy consumption to be reduced through reductions in average journey-to-work trip lengths and mode switching from car to public transit (Anderson et al, 1996). They further highlighted that urban form does affect but does not determine the energy use. This is not reasonably applicable for all situation for the imposing of energy conservation strategy, for example if the degree of importance of energy conservation strategy depends on effectiveness of the strategies, then urban form becomes important as determinants since in the long-run it will be more effective than just reduction in driving.

Travel pattern is greatly affected by travel behavior. Dieleman et al. (2002) clarified that personal and household attributes such as incomes, family composition, and participation in the workforce have an impact on mobility behavior and modal choice. Second factor is the place of residence, whether in the city center of suburb, along with the compactness of residential environment. Third factor is the purpose of the trip undertaken; this factor is also intertwined with length of the trip and the choice of travel modes, car or bicycle. This clarification implies that the only intervention through urban planning approach without trying to influence “behavior” of the users will be meaningless; therefore the human factor should also be considered when intervention is required.

Energy efficiency with traffic generated source can always be achieved as long as the opportunities to do so are there, since the effort is not a snapshot rather than continual process. With the advancement in sustainable urban planning and technology, the urban energy inefficiency created by spatial incompatibility will be gradually decreased over time.

Transport and Energy: Evidence from Some Asian Cities

Energy consumption for transportation in a city seems to have significant correlation with gross domestic product of the city, as shown by Newman and Kenworthy (1999). They found that based on studies in some cities in developed and developing world, per capita energy consumption is positively associated with gross domestic product (refer to Figure 5).

Figure 5 Correlation between GDP and Transportation Energy in some Asian Cities in 1990

Although there was no definite pattern of the increase of transportation energy as GDP increases, however, it is almost noticeable towards that trend. Bangkok was obviously car dependent city with high transportation energy uses almost double compared with Seoul for nearly the same GDP. In the similar manner, Tokyo was more energy efficient in comparison to Singapore with GDP only half of Tokyo. Almost perfect comparison was between Singapore and Hong Kong, for the same GDP, the use of per capita transportation energy in Singapore was double. It was quite surprising with the fact that Hong Kong and Singapore were two countries with stringent control of private vehicles. Taking regression line of Surabaya, Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, it was apparently straight line with steep slope. It seems that most probably that Southeast Asian developing Cities would go towards this trend, whenever increase of GDP would undergo. Unfortunately no such records available after 1990. This trend would be the basis of establishing hypothesis of this research. The trend would affect or be affected by urban development. With current pattern of urban development in Southeast Asian developing cities, the trend would probably be true. Thereby understanding linkage between transport and urban development would be essential.

Transport and Urban Development Linkage

Transport is obviously a major component of urban system, and therefore transportation has mutual impacts with urban development. With the existence of strong city plan the mutual relation of those two, urban development will prevail and otherwise. The impacts of transportation on urban development have been shown by Banister and Lichfield (1995), as they stated that transport has major impacts on the spatial and economic development of cities and regions. The attractiveness of particular locations depends in part on the relative accessibility, and this in turn depends on the quality and quantity of the transport infrastructure. The sprawling city with leaf-frog and in-fill development leads to consume more transport energy. Further environmental sustainability issue is yet again arising because an unconstrained growth of travel demands particularly motorized transport, and subsequently substantial external costs are imposed on people, environment and cities.

In many cities there has been a strong reaction to the realization that more urban road construction has led to increased level of traffic and congestion (Banister and Lichfield, 1995; Rujopakarn, 2003). Work and peak hour travels can still be considered as single largest trip generation category, solving this problem alone, however, will not address the congestion problems and alleviate air quality issues. It requires simultaneous solutions (Paaswell, 1995). Considerations on multi-worker households, increasing proportion of non-work trip, growth of auto ownership and suburbanization of jobs and housing, personal mobility, access to daily activities, more transit use, and non-motorized vehicle trips, should also be attended. With the assumption that motorized trips would require non-renewable energy use, those strategies would likely reduce energy use for transportation.

Statement of the Problems

There are numerous sources of energy inefficiency in the city that can actually be corrected toward energy efficient city. Two of the most prominent sectors of the arena of energy inefficiency are transportation and built-environment e.g. building, these are called energy users domain. However, the study will emphasize on transportation.

Some of cities in developing countries have grown in the era of abundant land sources and planned by the colonial country at the era of colonialism with small number of citizen. When the country becomes independent and the city is growing bigger and bigger, while capacity of planning and managing the city is lag behind the rate of urban development, consequently city is managed under business as usual and household-like management, the city is developing without proper planning, expanding like as-you-go, sprawling with no appropriate planning and management. And finally reach a ‘point of no return’ situation where correcting to the proper direction will require extra-large efforts, time and resources.

Energy consumption and urban form has been considered to have correlation (Permana, 2010). Some school of thoughts has been contending compact city vis-à-vis low density city as deliberated by Mitchell (2005). On the other hand, compact city would reduce travel energy demand.

Urban form, where the interconnection structure among functions is reflected, contributes to the transport energy waste through segregation of residential and commercial areas, creation of non-pedestrian friendly environment that encourage motorized travel. Some studies found the evidence of shape, size, residential density, layout and location of activities in cities can yield energy saving up to 150 percent; moreover, low-density cities use twice as much energy as high-density cities, even when controlling for climate and income differences (Haughton and Hunter, 1994; Leitmann, 1999).

From above discussion, it is noticeable that the problem of urban transport energy inefficiency rests in the following keys:

  • Urban form that encourages unnecessary motorized travel and create private vehicles dependent,  promotes urban energy inefficiency which can actually be reduced through appropriate interventions;
  • Urban transportation system that does not encourage the use of public transport, for example, due to inadequate modal choice of public transport;
  • Urban condition that does not create pedestrian friendly environment shall contribute to urban energy inefficiency through discouragement of non-motorized travel.

The study attempts to explore one of the indicators on environmental sustainability of Johor Bahru with respect to trends and causes of transport energy consumption by investigating present development of urban form as well as citizens’ travel behavior. A proposal of assistance for urban planners and managers towards the achievement of energy-efficient city, given present development of Johor Bahru City, is expected. With suitable solutions, this study is expected to contribute to the reduction of energy use in an urban area while paved the way toward energy-efficient city and ultimately sustainable urban system.


Many cities in developing countries are growing without having adequate attention to the energy efficiency. In most cases, transport energy receives no adequate attention, in this still area of low-hanging fruit for energy. Energy inefficiency is obviously not the pathway towards sustainable city. Retrofitting the current state and draw it back to right pathway will clearly require immense effort and radical changes.

Ideally, a sustainable city with respect to energy should produce its own energy source, within the city, continually over time until the “limit” is reached and at the same time the possible energy reductions from various sources of inefficiency are continuously conducted. Urban energy sustainability is accomplished when those two efforts meet at one point, or in another word, self-production of energy always meets the urban energy demand.

Cities as great energy consumers as comparison to rural areas require appropriate system and policy those support the reduction of energy consumption. Because of this premise urban area becomes more important realm as a focus of energy efficiency target in comparison with rural area. There are major fields of policy interventions for energy efficiency in the city as claimed by Capello et al. (1999).

Achieving energy sustainability in a city is unavoidable as a pathway towards sustainable city along with other supportive conditions. Oil-based energy is one of the most crucial sources which is steadily depleting, renewable sources of energy are then the best energy alternative to substitute presently depleting energy sources, in the meantime, cities should prepare themselves to greet inescapable energy crisis era if current level of energy use and effort to save energy are kept. The most suffering cities, when energy crisis were coming, are certainly developing countries cities, since they are not well preparing to face the situation. To help developing countries cities particularly in tropic climates, a study must be prepared in addition to the existing similar studies in different geographical regions.

This issue should be addressed in either research questions or objectives and outcomes of the research.

Scope of Study

By realizing that environmental sustainability issue will involve numerous indicators, and by considering limited time and resources, the study will focus only on transport energy consumption and relevant urban development factors. There are some reasons on the focus: (1) the study area exhibits the constant increase of private transport system share (2) Multiplier effect of transportation on resource consumption as well as environmental degradation i.e. air pollution (3) Transport sector is predominant energy consumer in Malaysia (4) Contribution to the government’s commitment on emission reduction.

Research Questions

The study aims at the provision of essential understanding and general guidelines for urban planners and managers towards the accomplishment of energy efficient city as essential ingredients toward sustainable city. There are some legitimate commands and controls as urban planning and management tools with the support of appropriate parameters of different level of study arena, commencing from individual households at the first level, towns at the second or intermediate level, and city as the highest level of approach. Those parameters of the study arena should be properly addressed in the research questions. Thereby to appropriately guide toward the achievement of objectives of the study, a series of following structured research questions are addressed:

Question #1: What are factors that influence the steady increase of transport energy consumption in Johor Bahru?

Question #2: What are the generic characteristics of Johor Bahru urban form that embeds the high travel demand by private cars?

Question #3: What is the degree of environmental sustainability of Johor Bahru, given present high travel demand by private vehicles, citizens’ travel behavior, urban form and other significant contributing factors.

Research question #1 is expected to address all possible factors those impede or facilitate towards energy efficient city. Research question #2 is expected to provide legitimate opinions for urban planners and managers in planning and managing their city. Understanding on energy consumption with respect to non-proximity of origins and destinations, for example, gives urban managers to plan and design urban areas that minimizing travel demand by private cars. Research question #3 is expected to address the current state of the city with respect to single factor of environmental sustainability i.e. transport energy consumption.

This study apparently employs problem-solving approach or applied research, based on current problems which are undergoing persistently in the city rather a fundamental research which studies processes that are universal in its application to scientific knowledge. Applied research is, in most cases, one of the reliable sources of a short cut solution of specific problem, since urban environmental problems in the developing countries cities cannot wait for a longer time to get response from the city’s authority. To properly accommodate this applied research, a targeted city that possibly contains parameters to support the research towards the achievement of research objectives and outcomes is proposed. Since numerous parameters should be acquired from urban domain, while cross-country study would not be possible given limited time and other resources and keeping the study manageable as well as maintaining the homogeneity of parameters, the study is undertaken from micro-scale (household level) to macro-scale (towns) and then city.

It is noteworthy to articulate that for the sake of further similar study the characteristics of the city or town in relation with dictating variables should be properly portrayed, since with such information and experience, a correlation between characteristics of the city or town and the level of energy consumption can be established, as such an urban planner would be able to plan energy efficient city based on that acknowledged relationship.

Problem-solving research should be able to identify the problems as well as the hints that lead to possible solutions. Therefore, identification on possible and feasible solutions based on the symptoms found in the study is necessary. The possible solutions should also analyze current policies and stakeholders. The analysis should normally uncover the causes of current policy failures and stakeholders’ behavior toward the policy.

Objectives of the Study

Study on environmental sustainability of Johor Bahru City from urban transport energy consumption view point aims at understanding whether or not Johor Bahru is in the correct pathway towards sustainable city from one environmental perspective. By this comprehension, proactive and corrective actions, by the relevant authorities, can be proposed and perhaps carried out.

A glance observation will immediately point out that the most energy consuming activities of the citizens in association with urban space is transportation. Space will create the need to move from one point to another; greater the space, beyond walking or biking distance, motorized transport will be required. For daily activities, citizens of a city will need to travel within the city; working, studying and shopping are the most frequently undertaken activity by the citizen (Hanson, 1995; Meyer and Miller, 2001). By looking at the cause, to minimize the need of motorized transport, proximity or shared space between residential area and commercial area, for example, can be proposed.

Supported by those above premises and arguments, the following comprehensive understandings, prior to the achievement of objectives, are expected to accomplish:

  • To describe the dictating variables such as urban structure, land use, transport modes, the existence of pedestrian friendly environment in the city and other relevant factors. This description is extended to provide comprehensive understanding for urban planners and managers on which city’s elements that impede or facilitate the city towards sustainability.
  • To measure the present transport energy consumption of the citizens of Johor Bahru.
  • To explain the correlation between urban energy uses with residential and population densities, type of urban development (sprawling town, residential neighborhood and mixed use). This description provides information to urban planners and managers on current conditions of his/her city as well as inputs for them in paving the way towards sustainable city.
  • To measure the level of environmental sustainability of Johor Bahru, given present and trends of urban transport energy consumption.

With such comprehension, the overall outcome of the study is extended to provide general guidelines for urban planners and managers on how to go on well track to accomplish energy efficient city as essential ingredients toward sustainable city. This knowledge can be of the basis of appropriate planning, designing and managing city towards sustainability.

Brief Methodology

  • General

Urban environmental issues cover broad range of different problems along with their peripheral linkages. Through deductive analysis, the study will focus on urban road transport energy consumption.  The study will explore the incumbent state of the city related to environmental sustainability from the perspective of the energy consumption for road transportation.

  • Methods of Study

To meet the objectives of study, a brief explanation on how study will be undertaken is sequentially described according to research questions that have been given previously. Method of study is briefly described below.

              a        Based on research question #1 and #2: Exploring the possible factors and parameters influencing transport energy consumption in Johor Bahru.

Study on transport energy consumption will identify the possible factors and parameters influencing urban transport energy consumption. These are initially suspected including the followings:

  • The presence of non-proximity origin and destination created by urban form and urban land use zoning that encourages high travel demand. This is named origin-destination variable or OD variable.
  • The presence of pedestrian friendly environment that encourages citizens to avoid unnecessary motorized travel. This is called PFE variable.
  • The degree of current public transport share on total transport modal splits. This is called public transport variable or PT variable.

The methods of acquiring data that leads to attaining those variables are briefly described in the following table.

Table 2 Methods of Data Collection to Acquire Possible Parameters

b        Based on Research Question #3: Analyzing the environmental sustainability of Johor Bahru with respect to transport energy consumption.

The methods of assessment on environmental sustainability will use existing environmental sustainability indicators along with other attributes of Johor Bahru. Environmental Sustainability Indicator (ESI) 2005 can also be used as reference.

Those generic characters are quite subjective and depending heavily on the assessor, however with such characteristics, urban managers and planners can easily detect current state of his/her city and take necessary anticipations toward energy efficient city, which in turn will lead to sustainable city.

Comprehension on the characteristics of urban domain at either town level or city level based on the understanding on households’ behavior on energy consumption are essential for good urban planners and managers towards the achievement of city vision as energy-efficient city. The research is the expected to provide strong foundation and fundamental for urban planners and managers to organize their tasks.


  • Proposed Study Area and Number of Samples

Covering all Johor Bahru as study area is not possible considering the limited available resources. Therefore Johor Bahru will be statistically represented by selected samples. The sample size itself is calculated by n=z^2(p)(1-p)/c^2, where n is sample size, z is area under normal distribution curve i.e. 1.96 for 95% confidence level, p is 0.5, and c is confidence interval. By considering Johor Bahru population and by applying this formula, the sample size is 360.

The proposed Tamans for the samples are:

  • Taman Mutiara Rini, Taman Bukit Indah and Taman Setia Tropika represent the outer part of Johor Bahru
  • Taman Abad and Larkin represent the inner part of Johor Bahru
  • Kampung Majeede and Kampung Mahmoodiah represent the semi-controlled residential areas.



Urban area consumes larger portion of any kind of energy compared with rural, since various economic activities are undergoing in the city. Numerous energy consumers are exist in the city. In Malaysia or perhaps in Johor Bahru, the two-top energy consumers as shown in Table 1 are transportation and industry, although this is not particularly pinpointing the city. In line with this reason and in order the study to produce something useful rather than superficially investigated outputs for urban development and management in Malaysia, a focused study on transport energy consumption will be conducted and serve as limitation.


The study will be carried out in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Although environmental sustainability cannot be assessed through only land transport energy consumption, but since the overland transport energy is presently the largest consumer of non-renewable energy in Malaysia, and it will have multiplier impacts on the environment, therefore the choice of urban transport energy and its consequences to exhibit environmental front of Johor Bahru is acceptable.

Expected Outputs and Outcomes

The study elaborates the investigation on urban transport energy consumption along with understanding on citizen’s travel behavior and urban form of Johor Bahru. The expected outputs of the study are as follows:

  • Present and trends of transport energy consumption in Johor Bahru investigated, analyzed and understood;
  • Travel behavior of the Citizens of Johor Bahru investigated, analyzed and understood;
  • Present and trends of environmental sustainability of Johor Bahru in terms of urban transport energy consumption is investigated, analyzed and understood.

By these outputs, the expected outcome of the study is to provide research-based inputs for the development of Johor Bahru towards environmentally sustainable, economically sound and socially rich Johor Bahru.

Table 3 Methods of Data and Parameters Acquisition


Time Plan and Budget could not be copied to this space, because of limited space.










Action Research Proposal

This month we are going to submit an Action Research Proposal to International Development Research Center, Canada. Dr. Chantamon Potipituk of Rajamangala University of Technology Rattanakosin (RMUTR) Thailand, Dr. Winny Astuti of Universitas Sebelas Maret (UNS) Indonesia, and I on behalf of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia are the proponents of this Action Research.

The title of this action research is:

A Collaborative Action Research Project on

Building the Capacity of Potential Change Agents in Climate Actions in the Community of Nakhonpathom Thailand, Kadipiro-Sondakan-Kestalan Indonesia, and Taib Andak Malaysia towards Zero Waste Community.

Here are the summary of the research:

Abstract of the Action Research Project

Climate change impacts are visible and clear threats, and therefore climate actions are urgently needed. There are potential change agents who would unarguably be able to expedite the climate actions at community level. They are woman groups and middle schoolgirls. The problem is they are not sufficiently involved in the actions because of gaps in the policies at central level and implementation at community level. The objectives of this action research are (1) To identify and analyze the gaps of existing policies and strategies with present status of adaptation and mitigation efforts and exercises (2) To propose innovative approaches on top of existing policies, strategies and practices based on current science and knowledge (3) To build the capacity of change agents with focus on woman groups and school girls i.e. their knowledge and skills on climate change and zero waste practices (4) To provide practical pilot projects on zero waste at community level with emphasis on establishment of waste bank – to deal with recyclable wastes, provision of portable composters and biogas digesters – to cope with organic and food wastes, and (5) To organize field visits to relevant existing successful projects in the region with women and school girls as primary participants. The action research project will be carried out in a collaborative manners with three prominent universities in Indonesia Malaysia and Thailand. The practical pilot projects would be implemented in Kadipiro-Sondakan-Kestalan, Surakarta Indonesia; Sam Phran District, Thailand; and Taib Andak, Malaysia. The expected potential impacts would be (1) Increased the capacity of 90 women and girls in the region on climate change and zero waste (2) Six waste banks with initial seed money are established (3) Thirty do-it-yourself composting bins provided (3) Three communal 2-3 m3 size biogas digesters (4) Potential CO2 reduction of about 25 ton per year.

Hope we will secure the funding of this research.

Collaborative Research

A collaborative Research Proposal submitted to Asia Pacific Network for a grant, unfortunately the proposal was rejected as it lacks of seed funding from the proponent, as it was one of the requirements of the collaborative research.

The title of this collaborative research proposal was:

Improving Adaptation Capacity of Urban Citizens on Climate Change Impacts in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand: Bridging Science, Policy and Practice.

The summary of the proposal is found below:

Cities are facing an inconvenient truth, which is a problematic truth that no city could avoid it. The truth is that climate change impacts are visible and clear threats. The problem is the capacity of each city is different one and the others. In developing countries, in particular, such as Southeast Asian countries, the city’s adaptability on climate change impacts is generally low. On the other hand, cities in developed countries have higher capacity to cope with the climate change impacts with respect to technological know-how, financial capacity and quality human resources. While adaptive and mitigative capacities are different from city to city, cities in developing countries may follow the path of their developed cities counterparts to improve their very own capacities.

Within a collaborative spirit of Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand, this research aims to (1) assess and review existing policies, strategies and practices associated with climate changes in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand (2) identify and analyze the gaps of existing policies and strategies with present status of adaptation and mitigation efforts and exercises (3) propose innovative approaches on top of existing policies, strategies and practices based on current science and knowledge (4) in collaboration with national universities and experts, build the capacity of stakeholders i.e. training and field visit with participants from local authority, local community leaders, local NGOs, youth and woman group, and other potential change agents, on combating climate change impacts (5) establish a pilot project on adaptation and/or mitigation strategies of climate change.

The research will be undertaken in collaborative manner by three prominent universities in Southeast Asian countries: Sebelas Maret University (UNS) of Indonesia, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Rajamangala University of Technology Rattanakosin of Thailand. The research grounds are these three countries towards the accomplishment of research objectives 1-4, and with selected cities of Bangkok Thailand and/or Iskandar Malaysia and/or Surakarta Indonesia, to accomplish research objective 5.

The proponents are:


Team Leader (Malaysia): Ariva Sugandi Permana, PhD, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Email: ariva@utm.my.

Collaborator (Indonesia): Winny Astuti, PhD, Urban and Regional Planning Program, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Sebelas Maret, Surakarta, Indonesia. Email: winnyast64@gmail.com.

Collaborator (Thailand): Chantamon Potipituk, PhD, Department of Architectural Technology, Faculty of Architecture and Design, Rajamangala University of Technology, Rattanakosin, Thailand. Email: chantamon.pot@rmutr.ac.th.