Busway: Six months after

The Jakarta Post | It may seem somewhat premature to judge Jakarta's six-month-old busway system's failure or success. Nevertheless, after that time span, a thorough evaluation is certainly appropriate.

Many Jakartans seem unaware that the much-criticized busway system, adopted from Bogota, Colombia, has been in operation on Jakarta's crowded roads since January 15, this year.

Much of the criticism derives from the city administration's poor preparation in providing the proper infrastructure for the project. The felling of trees along major thoroughfares was another flaw, in terms of its environmental impact.

However, despite public skepticism, and the city's seemingly incurable transportation headache, the administration apparently perceived that the busway was the best solution.

So, even as the construction of a monorail system has begun and a subway project is in the works, Jakartans have no choice but to accept the busway as a permanent fixture. Under such circumstances, a question bashfully rears its head: Yes, but -- has the busway actually cured that nagging headache?

Admittedly, the decreasing use of private cars is one indication that the busway has answered the call for a better system of transport. Indeed, one of the main objectives of the busway was to discourage people from driving their cars to and from work.

For only Rp 2,500, residents can now travel from Blok M, South Jakarta, to the commercial district of downtown Kota in less than 30 minutes aboard an air-conditioned TransJakarta bus. Viewed from these aspects: low fares, comfort and a short traveling time, the busway system has so far provided one welcome solution to that baffling problem.

However, the busway has not convinced people that driving their car to work is not the best option, despite the fact that TransJakarta buses transport a total of 46,000 passengers a day, exceeding the target of only 20,000 passengers. Could this be because car owners cannot find a safe place to park their vehicles from nine to five? Likewise, the "three-in-one" regulation has hardly encouraged people to board the bus.

So, while waiting for car owners to change their habits, the administration would do well to think about providing parking lots where car owners can leave their cars safely until the evening, when they go home from work.

Another serious factor that must be addressed is the provision of adequate, safe, smooth and comfortable feeder lines from residential areas to busway corridors.

It is not easy for residents living in Ciledug -- a district located in Tangerang bordering the southern part of Jakarta -- to go to Kota by TransJakarta bus. Those residents would have to spend hours traveling by bus or taxi -- or any other means of transportation available -- from Ciledug to Blok M, just to take the TransJakarta bus to Kota.

Therefore, inter-provincial or inter-municipal cooperation between the administrations of Jakarta, and those of its surrounding areas, is a must to provide an integrated and interlinked system of transportation to support the busway.

Pedestrians, too, need to be given easy access to busway transit stations. Safe ramps connecting sidewalks and busway stations must be made available, since even sidewalks are part of the system.

All these matters should be properly addressed before the city administration goes ahead with the construction of busway corridors II and III, stretching from Kalideres in West Jakarta to Monas in Central Jakarta, and from Pulogadung in East Jakarta to Monas. Only then will Jakarta be able to boast of having a truly integrated system of mass transportation, capable of adequately serving the capital city's population of more-than -ten-million.