Fri, 19 Dec 2003

Minister casts doubt on success of busway, 3-in-1

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Minister of Communications Agum Gumelar expressed doubts on Thursday about the likely success of the busway project and the three-in-one traffic policy extension by the Jakarta administration.

"It's a huge change in the transportation system and would entail the proper preparation of human resources to enable it to succeed. Before being implementation, I want to see the busway being evaluated thoroughly, especially the support facilities," he said during a presentation by the busway team led by Irzal Djamal, who is also the assistant to the city secretary for development affairs.

The busway is scheduled to kick off on Jan. 15, in line with the extension and expansion of the new three-in-one traffic policy, a tryout of which is slated to start on Monday.

The new policy requires private vehicles to carry at least three passengers when traveling in the busway corridor from Blok M, South Jakarta, to Kota, West Jakarta, between 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The corridor includes Jl. Jend. Sudirman and Jl. M.H. Thamrin in Central Jakarta.

Agum suggested the administration consider pushing back the planned starting date for the busway to ensure all facilities were ready.

"The availability of parking lots for car owners so that they can switch to buses to take them into the heart of the city, and the provision of feeder services have to be ensured to make the system work," he said, adding that this would also avoid complaints from commuters from outside Jakarta.

For private motorists, Agum suggested a road-pricing policy, in which motorists driving alone would have to pay to enter the three-in-one zone.

His suggestion was seconded by the Director General of Land Transportation, Iskandar Abu Bakar, who asserted that private motorists working in offices along Jl. Jend. Sudirman and Jl. M.H. Thamrin were some of the country's biggest taxpayers.

"The problem has to be addressed as they (private motorists) won't easily give up their habit of using their cars. We have to admit that the businesses located along these streets have been the main financial supports of the city," said Iskandar.

He also said that the idea of barring cars with certain license plate numbers from entering the central zone on certain days would not do any good.

"People with a lot of money will just buy a new car that has different digits at the end of its license plate number," Iskandar said.

Irzal said that the three-in-one policy could be rolled back should it fail to ease the traffic jams. He failed, however, to elaborate on the definition of failure.

He also said that the administration would revoke the licenses of 149 buses belonging to four bus operators, which currently operate on the Blok M - Kota route.

The four operators -- PPD, Steady Safe, Pahala Kencana and Bianglala -- would form a consortium for the purpose of receiving compensation for the revoked licenses.

"Bianglala has yet to accept the plan because they are also demanding that their buses be allowed to operate in the slow lane," said Irzal.