Busway begins trial period

Preparations mount as busway begins trial period
Novan Iman Santosa, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The city administration finally started the trial period of its long-awaited busway project, temporarily called TransJakarta, last Friday as two trial buses made the first public appearance of an expected fleet of 60 buses to ply the route linking Blok M in South Jakarta and Kota in West Jakarta.

But many questions remain as to whether the new public transportation system will be a success or will end up as another ill-fated white elephant.

Early signs of possible failure emerged as the City Transportation Agency was forced to postpone the busway trial period several times since last October.

Experts and activists say the repeated delays are signs that the agency does not have a solid concept but officials say that it was simply because they were trying to accommodate all inputs.

"We were made aware that there were so many loopholes in the initial design so we postponed the launch of the trial period," head of the agency's traffic engineering division, Udar Pristono, told reporters on the sidelines of the trial period launch at City Hall.

"This project is aimed at providing a reliable and convenient mode of transportation for residents from the middle and lower income groups so we must prepare it well."

Ordinary buses need some 120 minutes on the 12.9-kilometer Blok M-Kota route for a round trip while the busway will only need some 90 minutes as it would run along a dedicated lane.

"Not only will passengers enjoy faster travel, they will also find it more comfortable and convenient as the buses are air-conditioned and have a reliable headway of between one and a half minutes to five minutes.

"Such a short headway means that passengers will not have to wait too long if they miss the bus while at the same time increasing the busway capacity."

The fare is set at Rp 2,500 (28 U.S. cents) while current bus fares range from Rp 900 to Rp 3,500 depending on the bus type.

Pristono said that demand on the Blok M-Kota route was about 12,600 passengers per hour in one direction.

Currently the agency is testing two different buses to see which one is better suited for the project, the Japanese Hino and German Mercedes Benz.

The Hino bus has 31 seats and the Mercedes Benz has 30 seats. Both have a capacity of 55 standing passengers each.

The buses have doors on both sides to accommodate various situations along the route. It is planned that the shelters will be in the right-hand side of the bus from Blok M until Harmoni in West Jakarta. Entering Jl. Gajah Mada in West Jakarta, the buses will use the left-hand side doors.

There will be 21 stops along the route served by 39 shelters as there are several combined shelters to serve both directions.

Busway rapid transit (BRT) is a common, widely-applied system in Latin American cities such as Bogota, the capital city of Colombia; Curitiba, a city of Brazil; and Quito, the capital city of Equador.

Governor Sutiyoso is slated to visit Bogota to observe the TransMilenio busway system, which was started on Dec. 18, 2000, some time in March.

Agency officials had visited Bogota to learn the system and implement any possible principles here.

TransMilenio's official website www.transmilenio.gov.co reveals that the first phase includes three routes totaling some 41 kilometers constructed between 1998 and 2001.

There are three five-year stages until 2016 when the system is expected to reach all districts of Bogota encompassing 387.9 kilometers.

Pristono told The Jakarta Post that TransJakarta would have a total of 12 routes when it is fully operational.

"The second route will serve the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta and Rawamangun in East Jakarta. We will study this route once the Blok M-Kota is running well," he said.

In contrast to TransMilenio's clear time frame, Pristono said he could not give a clear time frame for the project or how many kilometers of road were involved.

Further homework for city officials will be how to teach the residents to use this new system as people have to be taught to queue and buy tickets before entering the shelters.

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