When traffic is no longer bearable and public transportation cannot be trusted, residents of Greater Jakarta turn to motorcycle taxis, better known as ojek, as their preferred mode of transportation.
Despite the presence of ojek on every corner, choosing a suitable driver can be hard on a potential passenger.
Surprisingly, given its vital role, motorcycle taxis remain the most unregulated form of public transportation in the city.
There have been no campaigns to promote safe ojek driving, nor is the skill of ojek drivers verified.
And please — don’t even ask about passenger helmets.
Negotiating a price is also a problem. Ojek fares depend on many variables: the amount of traffic, the time of day, the weather, the distance traveled, and, of course, a driver’s opinion on what is “cheap” and a passenger’s definition of what is “expensive”.
It is common practice for ojek drivers to demand high prices for no readily discernible reason. Ojek drivers use severe traffic jams — admittedly an everyday occurrence in Jakarta — as an excuse to increase prices sky high.
In the end, traveling by ojek offers no guarantee for an inexpensive or safe journey.
Annoyed by this condition, Arief Kusumawardhana, a retired civil servant in Tangerang, Banten, came up with an idea: Providing ojek services at a standard rate using a reliable taxi meter.
Arief and his wife, Astri Ayuningtyas, thus started Taxijek, a portmanteau of taxi and ojek, in November 2011.
The couple currently employ four drivers. “We started small,” Astri told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
The couple ordered taxi meters that they installed on the motorcycles. The flag drop starts at Rp 4,000 (44 US cents) and passengers are then charged Rp 1,000 per kilometer.
At the end of the trip, drivers print receipts for their passengers, Astri said. “Everything is well recorded, including the distance and the time.”
Astri said that the price was affordable and fair for both drivers and passengers. “There is no need to argue because the price is fixed,” she said.
Astri said that they also provided drivers with a helmet for passengers and disposable shower caps to wear underneath, along with an extra raincoat.
“We also give special identity cards to our ojek drivers and gave them several regulations, including not to exceed a speed of 70 kilometers per hour,” Astri said.
Each driver wears a blue jacket with the logo of Taxijek emblazoned on the back. Passengers can order a Taxijek by telephone or BlackBerry Messenger.
“We have a strong belief that the business has a good future. But I was disappointed in the first few days because no one ordered the Taxijek. Then the situation got better. Now we can serve more than 20 requests, including trips to Jakarta or Bekasi,” she said.
Taxijek is not the first idea of its kind. The Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI) recognized O’Jack, initiated last year in Yogyakarta, as the first to offer passengers fixed-price ojek service.
People started to use Taxijek after they found out that it was cheaper. “We will charge less than Rp 30,000 for a trip from Tangerang to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Other ojek will cost you at least Rp 50,000,” she said.
Astri said that she had one loyal customer who traveled to Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, every day.
“The fare from Tangerang to Kebon Jeruk is Rp 22,000,” she said.
Astri said they were preparing to open a branch in Bintaro, South Jakarta.
“We desperately want to open a Jakarta branch, because there may be more demand there, but we’re still unprepared,” she said.
The service has reportedly made some traditional ojek drivers jealous. Taxijek driver Pawit Adimukti said they had an advantage in that they could enter elite housing complexes to pick up passengers.
“I know that many of them don’t like us, because we offer cheaper prices. They are also jealous because the Taxijek owners give us official ojek driver identity cards,” said Pawit.
“Other ojek drivers cannot enter the gate because the security guards will require driver identity cards.”
Another Taxijek driver, Ujang Junaedi, said that he had to keep his distance from other ojek drivers to avoid conflict.
Astri said that she wanted to cooperate with other ojek drivers to create a better situation.
“Should I have the opportunity to broaden my business, I will recruit those ojek drivers,” she said. (lfr)
Need haggle-free ojek service? Call (021) 94440739 or visit www.taxijek.com for more information.