City not yet prepared to inaugurate busway

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Despite a number of delays, the city administration is still not yet ready to launch its bus rapid transit (BRT) system, popularly known as the busway, as two large questions remain to be answered.

Many have questioned the busway program, scheduled to be launched early in January, since it appears that it cannot resolve the traffic chaos along the route from Blok M to Kota.

The most difficult problems are whether the city administration has an adequate number of buses to transport a massive surge of passengers within a relatively short space of time, as most passengers will be workers, and what it will do with the existing 165 buses that currently ply the route.

Assistant to the city secretary for development affairs Irzal Djamal said on Saturday that the administration had been forced into implementing the Rp 115-billion project as it would initially deploy only 55 buses in the program.

Irzal was correcting two hasty statements by Governor Sutiyoso and city transportation agency chief Rustam Effendy that the busway program would be launched in December and as many as 60 buses would be deployed to support it.

He conceded that the number of buses would be far from sufficient because the program would need neither 55 nor 60 buses but around 200 to enable it to transport 60,000 passengers in the morning peak from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and in the evening from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The administration has delayed several times the launch of the busway program due to complex problems anticipated to arise.

According to Irzal, with a total of 55 buses the BRT program would be able to carry only up to 20,000 passengers during peak hours, while the city administration has estimated that the actual number of passengers would total around 60,000.

The headway of buses will be about three minutes, meaning a bus would arrive at a shelter every three minutes or so. Irzal acknowledged the possibility of overload at bus shelters along the corridor because the headway would be far from the ideal -- 1.5 minutes.

"A 1.5-minute headway can be reached only if the buses deployed to serve the 12.9-kilometer route is at least 140. That could be achieved by the end of 2004," Irzal added.

Another problem is how the city administration will deal with the remaining 40,000 frustrated passengers who cannot be carried because other buses currently plying the route will no longer be allowed to operate.

Besides that, the city administration has yet to propose a solution with regard to the 165 buses currently operated by four bus companies, Djakarta Transport Company (PPD), Bianglala, Himpurna and Steady Safe.

Irzal said that the city administration had not yet offered a solution, including paying compensation to the four companies if they demanded it.

"Some buses will be allowed to continue plying the route but we have yet to determine how many will be granted operating permits. But of course, the buses will have to be modified so that they are compatible with the BRT shelters," Irzal said.

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