Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Jakarta braces for bus strike

JAKARTA (JP): Millions of commuters in the capital could be stranded beginning on Monday following a planned massive strike by owners of the over 8,000 private city buses, minibuses and mikrolet (minivans).

The strike plan was announced on Friday by chairman of the Jakarta chapter of the Organization of Land Transportation Owners (Organda) Aip Syarifuddin in a meeting with city councillors at the City Council building.

"City bus owners have decided to stop their operations starting on Monday because they can no longer cover their operational costs with their income from the current bus fares," Aip told the councillors.

"Organda's executives have done their best to persuade the owners not to stop their operations, but they insist on doing so, saying that it will pressure the government (to increase fares)," he said.

The meeting, which discussed a proposed fare hike, was also attended by officials from the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI) and the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI).

Organda made a similar threat in 1998 to protest fare hikes it considered insufficient.

On March 25, Organda gave the government a deadline of two weeks to decide on the fare hike.

Initially, it proposed that the fare for regular buses be increased to Rp 1,000 (13 U.S. cents) from Rp 300, minibuses to Rp 1,200 from Rp 500, limited passenger Patas buses to Rp 1,550 from Rp 700, and Patas AC buses to Rp 3,250 from Rp 2,300. Student fares were proposed to increase from Rp 100 to Rp 500.

Records show that there are 6,454 buses, some 2,585 of which belong to state-owned bus company Perum PPD, and 4,981 minibuses registered in the city.

The buses expected to be off the road on Monday are owned by private companies, such as Kopaja, Mayasari Bakti, Metromini and Steady Safe. It is predicted that 8,850 buses will not operate on Monday.

Aip gave four alternatives to the government concerning the bus fare hike.

"The government can simply approve our proposal or set its own fares. But it must make up the difference of our proposed fare with its proposed fare and pay it to the bus owners," he said.

"Another alternative is to set the fare to the market mechanism, which means passengers would pay more for longer trips. The government could also take over all city buses and operate them as a last alternative," he added.

MTI chairman Suyono Dikun criticized the government for not having a clear transportation policy.

"The policy should be in favor of public transportation, not private vehicles. The flow of passengers is more important than the flow of vehicles," he said.

"Transportation has a distorted market so the government has an obligation to subsidize it," he added.

He said the problem was quite simple in that the government must make a political decision by declaring new bus fares and prepare itself to face all the consequences.

YLKI chairwoman Indah Suksmaningsih said the government had only paid attention to bus owners all this time without paying attention to passengers.

"There are two types of passengers: those who are able and willing to pay and those who are able but unwilling to pay," she said.

"It's important to set the fare higher than the passengers' willingness to pay and it should be lower than the ability to pay," she added.

Contacted separately, head of city's Traffic and Land Transportation Agency Buyung Atang said he was ready to face the strike.

"We can deploy some 2,500 PPD city buses and 300 buses from state-owned company Damri," he said over the phone.

He called on other types of public transportation not to follow suit by halting their operations.

"I hope angkot (public minivan) and taxis will operate as usual," he said.

"The agency has also secured the support of 250 trucks from the city police and the Jakarta Military Command. I hope it will be enough to carry all the passengers in the city," he added.

Jakarta Military Command spokesman Lt. Col. Djazairi Nachrowi said the command would be ready to help the city administration handle the problem.

"It's the city administration's main duty to provide alternative transportation. However, we're ready to deploy our buses and trucks when needed," he said over the phone. (nvn)