Busway project funds drastically increased

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

After putting off the controversial busway project for over a year because of inadequate planning, the city administration now is seeking a mammoth 80 percent increase of the budget from Rp 50.8 billion to Rp 90.25 billion.

Some Rp 50 billion is to be spent to buy 60 new buses, an average cost of Rp 833 million (around US$92,555) for each, head of the City Transportation Agency Rustam Effendi told the City Council's Commission D for development affairs on Tuesday.

Rustam did not explain the details of the additional spending which has caused the budget to swell by 80 percent, he only said that there were "more items" added to the budget.

For example, the agency intends to buy some 60 buses instead of the 50 as planned earlier. The additional buses, they claimed, were necessary to ensure that the proposed 5-minute or less wait at each bus stop could be fulfilled.

In January, two buses - a Japanese Hino and a German-made Mercedes - will do trial runs on the 12-kilometer route from Blok M in South Jakarta to Kota in West Jakarta. An official said last weekend that the trial would be needed to decide which bus was most suitable for the project.

As for the new busway system itself, none of the planners or officials could say when it would actually be implemented.

The original Rp 50.8 billion budget for the project was allocated in the 2002 City Budget. But only Rp 4 billion was spent on miscellaneous items. The balance is technically supposed to be returned to the City Treasury.

Another Rp 86.25 billion will be taken from the 2003 City Budget -- which will total more than Rp 11 trillion -- to pay for the busway system.

Rustam said the funds will be used for three main categories of projects: the procurement of the 60 buses, the development of supporting facilities of the system (Rp 33 billion), and for a bus development project (Rp 3.25 billion).

Under the bus development project, the agency would buy two buses to test the route, and do an assessment of the trials.

The supporting facilities of the busway system include road dividers (Rp 2.7 billion), bus shelters/platforms (Rp 5 billion), traffic signs (Rp 4 billion), a tracking system (Rp 4 billion) and an information system (Rp 1.5 billion).

The project requires modified buses with entryways that are one meter from ground level as they will only stop at special platforms which are at the same level.

Originally, the busway system was to be launched this year to reduce traffic congestion on the main roads of Jl. Sudirman, Jl. MH Thamrin, Jl. Hayam Wuruk and Jl. Gajah Mada during rush hour.

However, transportation analysts doubt that the system will help very much in resolving Jakarta's notorious traffic problem. They said that the system was no where near an adequate solution for the transportation system in the city.

A subway system is most often cited as the best solution for the chronic traffic jams in the capital. Discussions about building such a system began more than a decade ago, but no significant progress has been made.

Environmentalists have also expressed concern over the busway system, particularly because hundreds of trees along the roads between Blok M and Kota will have to be cut down to make way for the bus shelters and other facilities.

The system is also drawing staunch opposition from the city bus operators as the fares for the busway will be only Rp 2,500, much less expensive than the current fares for the air-conditioned buses, which is Rp 3,500.