Tue, 14 May 2002

Jakarta needs integrated transportation system

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Tantri Yuliandini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The city will soon see another fare increase, and bus companies have promised better services, but as long as the city's transportation system remains haphazard the promise will always ring hollow.

Chaotic transportation has become the middle name of Jakarta, and traffic congestion is a common sight.

The city only has 10,000 public buses and minivans to serve around five million commuters each day. Many of the vehicles are old and run down.

"My opinion about public transportation here? I have no other answer but bad. Passengers get nothing but overcrowded buses and compartments, sweat and intimidation," Luthfi, a 20-year-old student, said on Monday.

Another student, Granita Ramadhani, said: "Public transportation companies will not improve their services. They break their promises every time the administration sets new fares."

More people choose to drive their cars to their destinations rather than use public transportation for this very reason, increasing traffic in the capital.

Regular traffic jams do not deter people from using private cars, partly because of the development of an arterial road network, especially toll roads.

According to a survey, in 1995, 21 million trips were made daily in the capital, with the majority of 11.9 million by private transportation.

Ten years previously, about 63 percent of the 14 million trips made daily were on public transportation.

The promise of better services in return for increased fares, therefore, will not materialize unless a major overhaul takes place to improve the city's streets.

Transportation expert Djamester Simarmata of the University of Indonesia suggested that the city prepare an integrated transportation system, comprising buses, minibuses and trains.

"The whole mass transportation system should be designed with an operational integration both in schedule and pricing, for all public transportation in the capital," Djamester told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Arranging complementing schedules between modes of public transportation will provide convenience for users as it would ensure the punctuality of their journey, he added.

Another point the government should consider is the presence of minibuses and minivans, which are the source of the chaotic state of the transportation system, Djamester said.

Minibuses and minivans congest most streets due to their large number and the lack of discipline among drivers.

Pandu Gunadi from the Center for Developing Cities said in an article published on the Internet that lack of coordination of bus routes often caused an uneven supply of buses.

"One road can have many buses on it, while on others it can be difficult to get a bus," he said.

In response to the problem, he suggested a zoning system that separates the routes of big buses, minibuses and minivans.

He said the zoning would allow smaller buses to operate on feeder routes from districts to the innercity and larger buses to operate on the city's main roads.

Such a zoning system, however, would only offer a short-term solution to Jakarta's chronic transportation problems.

In order to create a more sustainable transportation system, Jakarta needs to develop an efficient mass rapid transit (MRT) system, according to Djamester.

The city administration once planned to build an MRT, but it never materialized due to funding constrains.

The city first announced the MRT project in 1994 with an estimation cost of US$1.5 billion.

A year later a memorandum of understanding to finance the huge project was signed by the central government, the city administration and a consortium of foreign investors.

However, the economic crisis that struck the country in 1997 stalled the project.

The city reconsidered plan in 2000, but so far no forthcoming steps have been taken.

An MRT system serves as the main option in many big cities around the world as it normally carries between 60,000 and 80,000 passengers per hour in a single direction.

The city administration once estimated that it could prevent losses of up to US$900 million per annum caused by traffic congestion in the city.

"An MRT is vital for a big city like Jakarta. The city should invest in an MRT rather than construct another highway," Djamester said.