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Monorail may offer some relief to Jakarta JAKARTA - WHEN Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso flew to Kuching, Malaysia, last week to sign a deal for a monorail project worth US$400 million (S$704 million) for the Indonesian capital, it heralded a belated move to set up some sort of credible mass transit system in the gridlocked, polluted city of 12 million people. Jakarta is one of the last major metropolises in South-east Asia without an underground railway network. Blueprints have been drawn up in recent years, but were shelved at the onset of the Asian economic meltdown in late 1997.
If the monorail does come to fruition, which seems likely, it won't solve the city's calamitous transport crux; but it is a start. In a bid for high-viscosity traffic, the ubiquitous ear-wrenching bajaj (motorised rickshaw) seems set to go the way of its motorless predecessor - the colourful, pedalled becak. A sprightly new contraption called the kancil, among a coterie of other potential people-carriers, is making inroads into the Jakarta administration's plans to get rid of the slow-moving mini-polluter.
With an extra wheel on the bajaj, the boxy, ostensibly eco-friendly kancil is priced higher, at around US$4,000, and is therefore meeting early opposition from bajaj drivers, who have been making themselves heard in recent weeks. Next on the chopping block are the clapped-out buses, whose drivers believe rules of the road are for ninnies as they zigzag their crude, belching vehicles through the streets, deeming the most crucial of intersections points of pickup and disembarkation, and leaving long lines of browned-off motorists in their wake.
Roadworthiness tests for public vehicles have been in force for a number of years now, and given that the only ancient jalopies on the streets are the ill-designed buses - middle-class Jakarta residents own the latest, top-model cars and petrol-guzzling sports utility vehicles - they should be off the highways soon, right? Wrong. Nothing in erratic Indonesia is ever that cut-and-dried.
Underscored by a recent editorial in The Jakarta Post, omnipresent corruption has been rearing its vile head to scupper the compliance checks, with vehicle owners paying off the greasy fingers of graft-ridden officials. 'Owners of public transportation companies in Jakarta have learnt that roadworthiness tests have become a very lucrative illegal business for those officials in charge of conducting the tests... One of the most visible results of this has been that noisy, decrepit city buses belching black smoke from their exhaust systems are free to ply the city's roads without traffic police officers taking any action against them,' it noted.
However, while it's clear that the dilapidated buses are a main cause of Jakarta's traffic nightmare - where going from house to shop down the street can take upwards of an hour - they have one salient, redeeming factor: fares are dirt cheap. One thousand rupiah (EUR 0,11) on the mainly open-windowed variety gets you to most places. And with rush hour meaning the buses are overflowing with trodden-on passengers literally hanging out of battered doors, it's evident that a sole monorail, running 22.5km, will do little to make commuting for the masses a more pleasant experience.
Monorail fares - reportedly at around 12,000 rupiah - would undoubtedly be more than the poorly paid populace could bear, given that the average wage is around 500,000 rupiah a month. Therefore, an underground railway system is ultimately needed, providing swift transport for the teeming hoards, freeing up the overburdened roads and, as a result, rendering the heavy air more breathable. But with the massive expense of such a project and the gigantic construction required, Jakarta will likely not see such a system for many years, if ever. Thus, the city's lawmakers are right in forging ahead with other, easier-done plans, phasing out the obnoxious bajaj, attempting to rid the streets of toxic buses and constructing a monorail. After all, the people deserve better.

Posted in General @ 02 September 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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