The Jakarta Post
The policy of state-owned railway operator PT KAI Commuter Jabodetabek (KCJ) to continuously add cars to the rail network in Greater Jakarta is a commendable effort to attract more commuters to use public transportation. In fact, the number of KJC passengers has increased.
City-owned busway operator PT Transportasi Jakarta (Transjakarta) should emulate KCJ because the two mass transportation providers, if their services were greatly improved, could significantly reduce people's dependency on private vehicles, which has been blamed for the daily gridlock on the roads.
The number of passengers on commuter trains in June reached 850,000 per day, up from 690,000 earlier this year, according to KCJ president director Muhammad Fadhil. The rise is a breakthrough not easily achieved.
The gradual addition of train cars, which started when Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan headed the company, was the start of KJC's success story, followed by the replacement of all non-air conditioned cars. The next step was the renovation of stations and the clearing of stations and trains of all street vendors and beggars, adding to train passengers' convenience.
Fadhil said the number of commuter train trips would be increased from 884 to 988 per day by the end of this year. KCJ will also increase the number of cars in each train to 12 from the present eight to 10 so as to transport more passengers. For that, KCJ has procured 120 more cars. Its ambition is that by 2019, train passengers will reach 1.2 million a day.
How about Transjakarta? Regrettably, it has failed to stem the decrease in its passenger numbers. Its passengers reached a peak in 2011 with 114.7 million. But since then, it has constantly declined to drop to 111.6 million in 2014. According to a recent study by the Jakarta Transportation Council, there were 34.1 million Transjakarta passengers between January and April this year, down 8.5 percent from the 37.3 million in the same period last year.
A lack of consistency by the Jakarta city administration in developing the busway or the bus rapid transit system is perhaps the main reason for the decrease in passengers. Inconsistent law enforcement, for example, has resulted in the busway corridors no longer being excusive Transjakarta bus lanes.
Other city buses are allowed to use the busway lanes, but the failure to keep private cars and motorcycles out of the lanes is perhaps the main reason that passengers, particularly those with tight schedules, can no longer rely on the buses.
Now, driving in the busway lanes is no longer an embarrassing violation, particularly with the absence of police officers.
The most serious problem, perhaps, is the failure of the city administration to deploy an adequate number of buses along the existing corridors. Passengers have to endure crowded buses and wait too long at the bus stops.
The problem of bus shortages goes back to the administration of former governor Sutiyoso and former governor Fauzi Bowo, who both focused more on developing the corridors. The two governors developed 12 of the 15 planned busway corridors, but paid less attention to fleet expansion.
Good news came when then governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and then deputy governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama took over the city administration in 2012. They managed to convince the City Council to allocate a large budget as from 2013, enough to buy 1,000 big buses for Transjakarta lanes
and 2,000 smaller buses for the feeder services.
Unfortunately, the procurement of buses did not proceed smoothly after the buses turned out to be of poor quality. Ahok, who later became Jakarta governor in 2014, stopped all procurements and the relevant officials faced prosecution for corruption.
Since then, Ahok has unfortunately not resumed bus procurements. This year, the city only bought 51 buses for the Transjakarta busway. It also planned to buy 320 buses, but these are medium-sized ones for the feeder services.
Ahok was understandably disappointed with the poor quality of the buses purchased by his subordinates, many of which caught fire while in operation. It is good that he then focused on purchasing high-quality buses.
But such efforts should not prevent him from procuring the number of buses that he and Jokowi originally promised.
According to Transjakarta president director Antonius NS Kosasih, the number of roadworthy buses under the company's control totals 584, with 176 owned by the company and 408 by private operators.
By the end of this year, Kosasih said, his company would have added 189 buses to the Transjakarta fleet: 99 were procured in 2012, 59 in 2013 and 31 buses of the 51 buses to be procured this year. For their optimum use the 12 Transjakarta corridors need at least 1,030 buses, according to Kosasih.
With a total busway corridor length of 210.31 kilometers, Transjakarta has the potential to follow the achievements of KCJ. Transjakarta's success will help the city address its traffic woes. After that the city can introduce follow-up policies, such as electronic road pricing (ERP) or other traffic restrictions.
For sure, Jakarta will still rely on Transjakarta and commuter trains in the coming years. Even after the 15.7 km MRT project from Lebak Bulus to Hotel Indonesia is completed, Transjakarta will still be the city's main mode of inner city public transportation because of its wider coverage.
Kosasih, a former KCJ executive, should be able to convince Ahok of the need for the city administration to return to its initial plan, i.e., carry out mass bus procurement for Transjakarta. Otherwise, Ahok will fail to stop the decreasing trend of passengers amid worsening traffic in the capital.
The author is a The Jakarta Post staff writer.
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