The TransJakarta bus network marked its ninth anniversary on Tuesday amid criticism about a declining level of service and falling passenger numbers. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)
In the nine years that it has been in operation, the TransJakarta bus network has been largely ineffective in getting commuters out of their cars and into buses, observers say.
Putri Dina El-amir, a spokeswoman for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, said at a discussion on Tuesday that when the program was first rolled out on Jan. 15, 2004, it was expected to serve as the main mover of commuters throughout the city.
She pointed out that the network’s corridor of 12 routes now registered at the most 390,000 passenger trips a day, out of the 26 million passenger trips made daily in Jakarta, according to data from the Transportation Ministry.
Putri also noted that the number of total passenger trips a year on the network actually fell from 114.8 million in 2011 to 111.3 million last year.
ITDP says the adoption of the bus network by motorcycle and car commuters has remained low. Only 24.9 percent of current TransJakarta commuters previously traveled by motorcycle, while just 10.3 percent used to go by car.
Darmaningtyas, the executive director of the Transportation Study Institute, said the fundamental problem behind the low number of people riding the TransJakarta buses was the poor quality of service.
Even after nine years in operation, he said, the network continued to be plagued by a litany of problems, including other vehicles straying into bus lanes and a shortage of buses.
Darmaningtyas said data from his institute indicated that the quality of the service was only getting worse.
He said that the average commute from Blok M in South Jakarta to Kota in North Jakarta, at either end of TransJakarta’s Corridor I, took an average of 34.5 minutes in 2011.
Last year, the average commute along the same 12.9-kilometer route was 42.4 minutes, while so far this year it takes 73 minutes to cover the distance.
Darmaningtyas blamed the lengthy increase in the commuting time over the past two years on the increased frequency with which police were allowing other vehicles into the bus-only lanes during heavy traffic or flooding.
“Corridor I, which used to be the model for how the TransJakarta network should have been run, is no longer functioning as it was meant to because of this policy giving the police discretionary powers to allow other vehicles into the busway lanes,” he said.
“Another indication that the TransJakarta network hasn’t become the backbone of the public transit system as expected is the decline in the total number of passenger trips.”
Despite its shortcomings, the TransJakarta network has the potential to be a core and reliable system of public transportation, the ITDP says.
One of the first points that it says must be addressed is the shortage of refueling stations for the buses that run on compressed natural gas. Just six such stations are available in the city for these buses, which make up the vast majority of the TransJakarta fleet.
The Presidential Working Unit for Development, Supervision and Oversight (UKP4), which is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the Greater Jakarta transportation master plan, previously noted that “50 percent of the time that buses are on the road is spent going to and from refueling stations.”
Another point is the proper enforcement of the prohibition on cars and motorcycles entering busway lanes.
Options that have been tried before and proven ineffective include installing boom gates that only open to let buses through, as well as heightening the concrete dividers separating the busway lanes from the rest of the road.
The administration of Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo is currently undertaking a program to raise the separators to 50 centimeters. But along routes where this has been done, traffic police routinely allow other vehicles into the busway lanes during the morning and evening rush hours.
The ITDP says another matter that the city must address is the quality of the TransJakarta infrastructure, including the state of the bus lanes, the shelters and pedestrian walkways, and the sidewalks in the vicinity of the shelter.
The institute says the network operators need to work more closely with the Jakarta Public Works Office and transportation authorities to fix the potholed lanes, clean up and fix the walkways and shelters, and rebuild the pavements to make it easier for commuters to get to the shelters or to their destination after exiting the bus.
Putri said the ITDP lauded Joko’s decision to import a fleet of 66 articulated buses from China for use on Corridor I. The three-door buses are expected to be able to take on more passengers in a shorter time than the fleet of single-entrance buses in use since 2004.
Another positive development, Putri said, was the installation of CCTV cameras inside buses and bus shelters. The system now provides commuters with a live feed of where the buses are on any given route and how soon the next bus is expected to arrive at a given shelter.
With the addition last month of the 12th corridor, the network now stretches 233 kilometers, making it the most extensive bus rapid transit network in the world.
“The TransJakarta program has the potential to be a good program, but for that the operators need total authority over its management,” Putri said.
“The ITDP urges the city administration to upgrade the status of the operators to a city-owned enterprise [from a public service unit], in the hope that TransJakarta can implement good governance and improve accountability and transparency.”
Keeping the lanes clear
The ITDP is also calling on the city administration to accelerate plans to integrate regular bus services into the TransJakarta bus network.
Joko announced earlier this month that mid-sized Kopaja buses would soon be allowed to run in busway lanes, but the notion has been criticized by Sutiyoso, the former governor who kicked off the TransJakarta program.
“I’m confused. What reason could the administration possibly have to want to allow Kopajas into busway lanes? It’s inappropriate on so many levels,” he said at Tuesday’s discussion.
He argued that Kopajas were not as high as TransJakarta buses and passengers boarded and exited from the left, as opposed to the right for the majority of busway stops, making it impractical for Kopajas to pick up and drop off passengers with any degree of safety.
Sutiyoso also said that Kopaja drivers had a reputation for being reckless and could put passengers’ safety at risk if they tried overtaking TransJakarta buses at shelters by jumping the separators.
“That’s why I can’t imagine such a possibility. If this policy was to go in place, there would no longer be any exclusive busway lanes,” he said.
“We have to keep the lanes empty of other vehicles, as was meant from the beginning. That’s the only way that the buses will be allowed to move unhindered.”
Joko previously said the move would be temporary, to see how well the two systems could integrate.
“Later, we can see the advantages and disadvantages. Unless we try it out, we won’t know if it works or not,” the governor said last week.
He added he would personally evaluate the plan’s effectiveness.