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Jakarta Post

Welcoming the MRT

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 23, 2019   /   09:15 am
Welcoming the MRT Joy ride: President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (center) accompanied by several Cabinet ministers and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan (second left, in white and blue batik) rides the MRT Jakarta from Bundaran HI Station in Central Jakarta to Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta on Tuesday. The MRT jakarta will begin operating commercially on March 24. (The Jakarta Post/Seto Wardhana)

Jakarta finally now has its own MRT, something to celebrate after waiting for decades. Thousands of passengers have enjoyed the recent trial runs.

The first line, which links the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta to Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta, complements the capital’s Transjakarta bus service, the Commuter Line railway and other modes of public transportation in the capital, which is among the world’s most congested cities.

While we expect to see more smiles from commuters traveling on Sunday, after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo officially opens the MRT to the public, disappointment should also be expected as the inauguration is to proceed even as many supporting systems have not been completed.

As this went to press, the central government and the Jakarta administration had yet to reveal the MRT fares as city councillors had not made up their minds about the subsidy the administration would provide to ease the burden on commuters — a source of contention for some two decades since the MRT was conceived.   

Last week Jakarta councillors debated how to keep the fares for the MRT and light rapid transit (LRT) affordable for people from all walks of life. For now, Jakarta will have to pay a hefty subsidy to keep the fares between Rp 8,500 (56 US cents) and Rp 12,500 for the MRT and between Rp 5,000 and Rp 7,000 for the LRT.

The administration said it would be free of charge until the end of this month, but we still do not know exactly how much the administration will charge passengers after this period.

Park and ride facilities to support the 15.7-kilometer route will only be available at two out of 13 stations, namely those at Lebak Bulus and Fatmawati, both at the southern end of the line. The one near Lebak Bulus is progressing better than the parking lot near Fatmawati, which is still a plot of barren land. Even when it is ready, the Lebak Bulus parking lot will only accommodate 150 cars and 500 motorcycles, a small number compared to the thousands of commuters traveling to and from the city every day.

Park and ride facilities are more important for middle-upper class MRT users, who will expect convenient public transportation, the most important factor that could persuade them to leave their cars at home.

But with the scarce facilities, a drop in private vehicle use is not expected any time soon.   

Nevertheless, all of these problems should not discourage anyone. When it was first established, Transjakarta, a breakthrough in the city’s public transportation in 2004, also hardly attracted the middle class, who first found it hard to imagine riding the buses.

Fifteen years later, after the city bus operator gradually improved its network and service, the system has grown to carry more than 500,000 people daily.  

Sunday’s inauguration marks another breakthrough in Indonesia’s transportation history. It is the beginning of a journey of an advanced means of public transportation. Though dreadfully belated, it’s an exciting one.