Fri, 14 Feb 2003

'Bus fare hikes will hit low-income people hard'

The proposal by the city's Land Transportation Owners' Association (Organda) to increase bus fares has met with strong public resistance as it would further raise the cost of living amid the country's ongoing crisis. The city administration postponed announcing the fare hike earlier this week, but it is likely that it will be announced in the near future. The Jakarta Post asked some residents about the issue.

Iwan, 38, a driver of a minibus plying the Blok M, South Jakarta, to Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, route. He has been a driver for almost 20 years. He lives in Parung, West Java, with his wife and two children:

I really disagree with the Organda proposal to increase bus fares. I hope the city administration will not only postpone it, but reject it entirely.

If it goes through, it will be hard for me as a driver as the bus operators and owners will raise their daily rental fees. The current rental of Rp 250,000 is already too much for me. How can I afford another increase?

It would certainly eat into my daily earnings. Now I only earn about Rp 50,000 a day after working the whole day long.

Usually, the bus operators and owners don't want to know about our real situation. They would only tell us to resign if we try to protest as there are so many unemployed out there who would do anything for a job.

If the plan goes ahead, it will put me in a real difficult situation.

Harsono, 40, a sidewalk vendor selling fresh vegetables in Cengkareng, West Jakarta. He resides in Rawa Buaya, West Jakarta, with his wife and three children:

I think the proposal to raise bus fares will only damage my business.

Almost all of us vendors here use public transportation to bring our wares from the central Kramat Jati Market in East Jakarta every night.

Despite the fact that I don't use public buses every day, a bus fare hike will influence transportation costs in general.

I have to put aside more or less Rp 25,000 to bring my goods here from East Jakarta. So, it would increase my daily transport costs.

An increase would also lead to a rise in the price of vegetables. Otherwise, we would suffer big losses.

On the other hand, I realize that it won't be easy for me to increase the prices of my vegetables. We have loyal customers and they would complain about any further price increases.

So you see, we will be in a dilemma, whether to raise prices and lose customers, or to keep our customers by not increasing our prices, in which case our takings will drop.

Robert, an office employee who resides in South Jakarta with his family. He works in South Jakarta:

I totally disagree with the proposal. The transportation system is never improved, so why we should agree to fare increases.

The non-air conditioned buses are usually clapped-out. And it's so uncomfortable with broken seats and leaking roofs on the regular buses, particularly in the wet season like now.

I don't think a fare hike will improve the safety and comfort of passengers.

I don't believe the maintenance of the buses is foremost in the minds of the bus operators as we never see the old buses being repaired.

The new fare hike will only worsen the economic difficulties of low-income people who use public transportation daily.Leo Wahyudi S