Mon, 17 Sep 2001

Life is hard for Tangerang and Bekasi residents

By Ida Indawati Khouw

JAKARTA (JP): Yuyun's daily commute works out to a long, tiring four hours, involving changing public transportation four times.

The private company employee's story is representative of thousands of people who work in the capital but live on the outskirts of the city, mostly in Tangerang and Bekasi.

Poor transportation facilities are what make their lives difficult.

The 32-year-old father of one takes an ojek motor taxi from his house to Kota Bumi terminal, changing to a van to Kalideres bus terminal, taking a bus to Grogol terminal before taking another van to Jembatan Dua.

Urbanists blame it on a lack of concern for ordinary citizens. Jakarta's suburban areas have been built by housings developers who have paid no heed city's master plan; instead, their aim of providing houses on the city's outskirts is simply profit.

Therefore, most housing areas don't have proper access connecting them to Jakarta, where most people work during the days, as well as the lack of mass public transportation services. Last year's data showed that up to 80 percent of the 12.7 millions Jakarta population are commuters.

"The development (of the suburban areas) is never conducted based on the master plan. Besides, the growth is much faster than the government's ability to provide transportation," said Andi Rahmah, transportation policy analyst of the Pelangi Foundation, a non-governmental organization focusing on environmental issues.

The Study on Integrated Transportation Master Plan for Jabotabek Phase 1 said the Greater Jakarta population has been continuously growing with the concentration on East-West axis (Bekasi and Tangerang). The Jakarta 1985-2005 master plan emphasized on the southern part of the city as the water catchment. But the implementation shows the opposite.

"The master plan also said the transportation need was developed to the North-South axis. The authority (state-owned PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) railway company) focused more on the Jakarta-Bogor train system instead of those servicing the Bekasi and Tangerang routes," said Jack Sumabrata -- currently writing his thesis on the sustainable transportation in Jakarta at the University of Indonesia, referring to the so-called Greater Jakarta train service.

Contrast to residents in southern Jakarta -- who have a better transportation system due to the high frequency of Jakarta-Bogor train service which reaches 75 fleets daily -- the Tangerang and Bekasi route have lesser frequency and poorer conditions.

There is only eight fleets serving Jakarta-Tangerang passengers daily and 20 fleets for the Jakarta-Bekasi route. No wonder if train to both directions are always crowded with passengers, some of them even sit on the roof and join the engineer inside the locomotive, specially during peak hours.

The train condition is very poor with broken windows and seats in the cars, lack of electricity during the nights, let alone the unfixed schedules.

No improvement

However, PT KAI so far has no plan to make improvement.

"It's impossible to increase the frequency of the Jakarta- Bekasi route, given the condition that it's the busiest tracks, serving 231 fleets per day including trains heading to Central and East Java," said PT KAI spokesman, Zainal Abidin.

"While the Tangerang route only has a single track with some technical limitedness including its inability to be passed by executive trains."

The company also has no plan to rejuvenate its trains, which some of them are more than 25 years old, serving Tangerang and Bekasi saying it is unprofitable.

"Last year we lost about Rp 69 billion (US$7.5 million) while our monthly income was only Rp 4.6 billion," Zainal said.

Besides train, commuters only have buses as another option but they also have notorious poor services. Buses are always overloaded with passengers, forcing them to stand from Tangerang or Bekasi to Jakarta protocol streets of Jl. Sudirman, moreover in peak hours.

The government have actually built toll roads link both satellite cities but the result is traffic jam in mornings and afternoons.

Andi, who is also the Indonesian Transport Society spokesman, said that Jakarta needs Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) to overcome its problem.

"The government must provide MRT instead of constructing more toll roads as it will only encourage private car ownership. The government has so far neglected the feeder system, resulted in appearance of informal mode of transportations," he said, referring to an integrated hierarchical transportation system that the vehicles are easily accessed starting from the arterious roads up to the small roads.

The high cost planned MRT enrouting Blok M and Kota seems to be a best solution for the city administration as well as its plan on the Jakarta Outer Ring Road (JORR) projects.

But both Jack and Andi disagree the government's concept.

"The projects won't solve the problem as the MRT serves the North-South axis therefore the workers living in Tangerang and Bekasi in the East-West axis don't get the benefit. While the JORR construction will only increase the number of private cars," Jack said.

He called on the authorities to solve the problem by improving the existed transportation infrastructures specially buses and train systems and services.