Tuesday, October 16, 2007

From busway system to monorail dream

With a population of about 8.5 million, Jakarta has become intensely crowded and increasingly mired in problems related to traffic congestion.

Flyovers and underpasses have been built but they cannot keep up with increases in the size of the population and the number of vehicles on the roads.

Some people estimate that Jakarta's population surges to some 11 million people during the day because people living in buffer towns come into the city to work. It is not difficult to imagine just how chaotic traffic in Jakarta is!

In addition to a busway system, the Jakarta administration also plans to introduce other means of mass transportation, such as a monorail and water transportation, to cope with the traffic congestion. People living in Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi will hopefully one day be able to travel into the city on an efficient and comfortable mass transportation system.

However, it is true that any mass transportation system for Jakarta is still all talk as of this point. Although the city administration expects an integrated transportation system to be realized by 2015, resident hope to be able to enjoy a modern and comfortable transportation system much sooner.

At present only the busway system has been introduced, but in its present state the system only serves one corridor, namely the Blok M-Kota route. It is hoped that the busway will be able to improve the appearance of the city and boost economic activity. The performance reliability of the busway system, better known internationally as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), plus the effectiveness of the investment costs involved, have made this system the right choice for many developing countries, Indonesia included, in improving their public transportation systems.

Unfortunately, Jakarta has yet to meet all the prerequisites necessary for the success of this system. A highly partial project-style approach has led to misperceptions on the part of the public in viewing the concept of the busway system as the right way to reform Jakarta's public transportation system.

Meanwhile, the monorail as a rapid transportation alternative for heavily congested Jakarta is, at best, just a topic of discussion, with still no real signs that construction has begun on such a system. The government adopted the idea of a monorail system from Malaysia. Actually, the system under discussion here is more suitably called a monotrack because it uses a single track, unlike the railway line used by state railway company PT Kereta Api.

According to Sukmawaty Syukur, director of Indonesia Transit Central (ITC), the company that holds the concession for the construction of the monorail, there will be three primary routes for the monorail system in Jakarta. These will be the 70 kilometer-long East-West corridor (Cikarang-Bekasi-Jakarta-Tangerang), the 25 kilometer-long North-South corridor (Bintaro -Blok M-Kota) and the 20 kilometer-long Jakarta CBD corridor (Golden Triangle-Manggarai). If the monorail does come to operate along these three corridors, traffic congestion in Jakarta would be much reduced, if not removed entirely.

However, ITC, as the partner of Malaysia's Mtrans, has put forward only plans for the first-stage of monorail construction, namely the track along the 22.5 kilometers from Bekasi to Mega Kuningan. If this plan gains approval, the second stage will involve the Jakarta-Tangerang route and the Bekasi-Cikarang route.

The monorail is a modern and traffic-congestion-free urban transportation system. It is cheaper than a light-rail transit (LRT) system, which requires heavy-duty construction. In addition, the monorail would only require 2.5 years to build while an LRT would certainly take more time. "The monorail is the best option for a city like Jakarta," Sukmawaty said.
The monorail is special in that it can readily reach users as it passes through the city. As many as 14 stops would be built along its tracks. At an average speed of 40 km/hour or a maximum speed of 80 km/hour, the monorail could carry 30,000 passengers in an hour. The monorail, which would be built 5.5 meters above the ground or 12 meters above the ground where it passes over a flyover, would be extremely effective for densely populated Jakarta.

The first stage of its construction, which would take 2.5 years to complete, would be expected to require US$400 million, less than the construction of a subway, which would require $1.2 billion for every 13 kilometers.

If the government is consistent with a plan it conceived two years ago, the construction of the monorail along the Bekasi-Mega Kuningan route will be completed by early 2006. According to As'ad Nugroho, a researcher attached to the Public Interest Research and Advocacy Center, the construction of a monorail is a smart idea as rather than clashing with other transportation systems it would complement them.

Bambang Susantono, the secretary-general of the Sustainable Transportation Action Network for Asia and the Pacific and an advisor to the National Development Planning Board, agreed to some extent with As'ad but added that for the monorail to overcome Jakarta's transportation problems the management of the city's transportation needed to be integrated.

He was of the opinion that the most suitable system for Jakarta is the MRT (mass rapid transit).
"The MRT is a must. However, it is still too difficult to apply this system in Jakarta, which is backward compared to other major cities abroad," he said.

In any case, the public is no doubt in for a long wait for a transportation system in which safety, comfort and punctuality are priorities, due to the huge cost. The construction of the Blok M-Kota busway corridor in 2003, for example, required no less than Rp 83.25 billion for the purchase of 60 new buses, the construction of bus stops and the rebuilding of pedestrian overpasses, among other costs.
One thing is for sure, according to Yayat Supriatna, a lecturer of planology engineering at Trisakti University in Jakarta, in principle the monorail system is the best option for Jakarta. As a national and international center for trade, Jakarta requires a comfortable, safe and rapid public transportation means. What must be taken into account in furthering the development of a public transportation system in Jakarta today is how to integrate a transportation network with dynamic growth into rapidly and uncontrollably developing surrounding areas.

The causes of the perennial traffic congestion in Jakarta lie in the failure to anticipate change in the system of land use and also in the late development of a road network and a decent public transportation system. (Burhanuddin Abe)

The Jakarta Post
October 25, 2005

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