Thu, 20 Nov 2003


City monorail trains, new but not the aspirin

Bambang Nurbianto The Jakarta Post Jakarta

In the original plan Jakarta monorail trains were intended to connect Jakarta and its outlying areas of Bekasi in the east and Tangerang in the west, but the dedicated scheme was altered because the Jakarta administration had to bow down to investors' wishes.

Urban analysts deplored the decision because construction of the monorails would not address properly transportation in the capital, one of many urban problems.

In the agreed plan the trains are to serve only the two busiest areas in the capital where offices and shopping centers are mostly to be found.

The investors, PT Indonesian Transit Central (ITC) and its Malaysian partner M. Trans Holdings, see the planned monorail as a lucrative business because the trains would attract large numbers of passengers, as the train stations would be integrated with other public transportation modes like buses and conventional trains.

Investors claimed the original scheme, which connected Jakarta with the outlying areas of Bekasi and Tangerang, was economically unfeasible.

Marco Kusumawijaya, a noted urban planner, said the city administration should not have totally accommodated the wishes of the investors because it had to look to the public interest too.

If there is still time, the administration must ask for investment in less crowded areas so that the monorail system can expand its coverage.

"It's a kind of cross-subsidy. Profits from lucrative businesses can be used to subsidize operational costs at less crowded areas. With such a mechanism, the monorail would serve more people," Marco told The Jakarta Post recently.

Construction is planned to start in January and is expected to be completed within three years. One of the lines is expected to be finished before Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso leaves office in 2007.

In the tender the investors injected some US$540 billion to construct the project. The total distance of the two lines is 27 kilometers.

The first line is the 14.8-kilometer circular line, named the "green line." It will serve the capital's golden triangle area of Kuningan, Sudirman and Senayan.

The "green line" will serve 16 stations. They are: Senayan Sports complex, Plaza Senayan, Jakarta Convention Center, Taman Ria Senayan, the House of Representatives/People's Consultative Assembly building, Pejompongan, Karet, Sudirman, Setiabudi, Kuningan, Taman Rasuna, Casablanca, Gran Melia, Satria Mandala Museum, Jakarta Police Headquarters and the Jakarta Stock Exchange as the coverage area.

Second is the 12.2-kilometer "blue line" connecting Kampung Melayu in the eastern part of Jakarta and Roxy in the west.

This line will serve 13 stations: Kampung Melayu bus terminal, Tebet, Saharjo, Menteng Dalam, Casablanca, Ambassador, Dharmala Sakti, Menara Batavia, Karet, Kebon Kacang, Tanah Abang, Cideng and Roxy.

In Kampung Melayu, the monorail station will have an interchange with the crowded bus terminal. Monorail trains there will enjoy feeder services from large, medium and small-size buses connecting the area with various locations in the city.

At Tebet, the monorail will be integrated with a conventional railway station, with trains that run to Bogor and Kota.

At Sudirman or Duku Atas station, the monorail will be fed with passengers from the bus rapid transit (BRT) system and commuter trains coming from Serpong and Bekasi.

Nearly all the other monorail stations will be located in busy area of Jakarta.

The monorail and BRT, popularly known as the busway, are two projects that have been put to tender by Sutiyoso to overcome the chaotic traffic problems in the city. The projects are believed to be the answer to the increasing number of private cars that are blamed for the worsening traffic congestion.

The plan to construct a monorail system in the city was no less controversial than the previous BRT plan. City councillors and local activists gave a cold shoulder to the BRT plan as they questioned its effectiveness in addressing Jakarta's severe traffic congestion.

"How will middle-class people, who own private cars, be persuaded to use the busway if there is no reliable public transport from the area close to their homes?" asked chairman of the Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta) Aza Tigor Nainggolan.

Unlike the BRT the planned monorail received less criticism because the "footprint" of the monorail will not occupy existing roads. The rails will be elevated, but will the system really be aspirin for the city's traffic headache, for the trains will operate within a limited area.