Transportation woes

The Jakarta Post | Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso, basking in the "achievement" of launching the Trans-Jakarta busway service on Thursday, may well qualify as this week's most boastful official.

For the governor, the launching of the project, despite its shortcomings, was like the lifting of a heavy burden from his shoulders. The project was proof of his compassion for the little people, he said during the busway launching ceremony, his face beaming with self-righteous pride.

The euphoria remains

Because the busway system is only two days old, it is too early to tell whether it is a solution to Jakarta's traffic woes, regardless of the controversial construction phase of the project, which included the chopping down of some of the city's few remaining trees to make way for busway stations.

There are some things that both Jakarta residents and the authorities should take into account as the busway officially opens for business on Feb. 1, when passengers will be required to buy tickets to ride the Trans-Jakarta buses between Blok M and Kota.

Several points along the route where the Trans-Jakarta buses and other vehicles meet seem likely to become permanent bottlenecks, including at the Pemuda Statue, the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle and the Olimo intersection.

For residents, the busway will reintroduce some of the old habits of commuting; passengers will have to buy their tickets before getting on the bus, something that disappeared from the capital more than 10 years ago.

As Jakarta officials have worked all out to make the busway a success, they must also think about the practical future of the system, particularly maintenance. Many people say that maintaining a project is more difficult than starting it up.

Vandalism must be prevented and security aboard the buses must be maintained. Many people are already skeptical about the chances of a police officer always being around to keep the criminals at bay.

In fact, the busway is only part of the overall transportation system for the increasingly chaotic capital, which is chronically lacking in a grand and integrated transportation system.

Sutiyoso has said that by 2010, Jakarta will have a macro-transportation system with another 14 busway corridors, a monorail connecting Tangerang in the west and Bekasi to the east, a subway linking the southern and the northern parts of the city, as well as a river transportation network.

All this within the next six years, with another Rp 120 billion provided by the city administration for the next busway project -- in addition to the Rp 120 billion the administration spent for the first busway.

To many, Sutiyoso's statements sound like pure fantasy, but what the city needs is an intermodal transportation system. We need an integrated plan to connect all modes of transportation, starting from the outlying residential areas to the central business district where people work.

Currently, each mayoralty has its own transportation plan. Operation permits are issued to motorcycle taxis, minibuses and other transportation providers with no overall vision for a larger, intermodal system.

This means the feeder lines for the busway have not been taken into account by the city administration. If the feeder lines are lacking, how can people get to the busway stations? And if these feeder lines remain congested, what is the use of clear busway lanes?

As even Sutiyoso has acknowledged the busway will not solve the city's traffic woes, the administration should begin a grand integrated transportation system to encourage people to get to work by public transportation, instead of in private cars.

One more thing: with Sutiyoso's term ending in 2007, the next governor must have a clearer vision of the city's transportation system.

No comments: