Monopoli busway

The city administration will today (Saturday) close off Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Thamrin, Jakarta's main thoroughfare, to private vehicles from morning until evening.

Only public transportation vehicles, including busway buses, will be allowed onto these streets.

This limited no-car day -- which eventually will become a monthly event -- is aimed at encouraging Jakartans to abandon their cars and take public transportation.

Few, if any, middle and upper-class Jakartans will be taking the normal public buses that other residents must make do with. They will instead make use of the TransJakarta, or busway, buses.

These buses, especially those plying the Blok M-Kota route, have become quite popular with many white-collar employees working along the routes.

With so many people already using the busway, and more expected, we support the expansion of the system, but only if the operator can maintain the level of service.

We are especially concerned by the recent rapid expansion of the busway, not because of the opposition offered by residents of upmarket enclaves like Pondok Indah, but because the expansion has been pursued at the expense of service.

The busway is no longer comfortable for many. Take a look at any of the busway corridors during rush hour and you will crowded stations and passengers crammed into buses.

When you use the busway service outside the Blok M-Kota route, traffic congestion along some sections of the busway's special lanes and at many intersections will disrupt the journey. Hundreds of desperate motorcycles take over the busway lanes, and when the traffic gets really bad cars start joining them.

Traffic police sometimes give up or pretend not to see these violations. All the busway lanes, except the Blok M-Kota route, experience this problem. What's the point of creating special busway lanes if other vehicles can illegally use them and go unpunished?

Even if the busway lanes are free from other vehicles, often the TransJakarta buses get stuck at intersections. This is exacerbated by the absence of yellow lines to keep the intersections free from vehicles at all times.

Consequently, the quality of service on the busway is declining. This situation is aggravated by the fact that on some routes, there are not enough buses. And with more and more corridors opening, the busway operator is simply unable to keep up with demand.

We are especially anxious about the sustainability of good busway service, considering that the system falls under the monopoly of TransJakarta, a unit under the city's transportation agency. The problem with TransJakarta is its lack of transparency in its finances, even to the independent Jakarta Transportation Authority.

Any entity that receives public subsidies must be open to public scrutiny. Otherwise, people inside TransJakarta could abuse their power and pocket the public money.

Despite the huge subsidy for TransJakarta, totaling slightly more than Rp 200 billion this year, it has been unable to maintain busway facilities at the level of public expectations. Some electronic ticketing booths do not work at some stops, including along the Blok M-Kota line. On the new routes ticketing is still done manually at some stops, which is open to abuse.

Also, at many stops passengers must wait much longer than the maximum five minutes it is supposed to take for a new bus to arrive.

We bear the responsibility to prevent TransJakarta from becoming a failed entity that will sap the city budget and fail to deliver a decent service to the public. To make TransJakarta a healthy entity, we suggest the city administration transform it from a public service board into a profit-oriented limited liability company and subject it to market competition.

We suggest the busway service be opened to market competition by tendering each corridor to bus or any land transportation operators. If necessary, we could open the service to foreign participation.

Our support for the concept of the busway is certain, but we want a better service. There is much that must be done by the busway operator to deliver a better service, including clearing the lanes of all other vehicles, improving the punctuality of buses and, most of all, opening itself to market competition.

The challenge is huge, but we all have an interest in seeing a successful busway system. [Jakarta Post - Busway monopoly]

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