We are hearing a lot about the manifold contradictions and imperfections of the
London project, which of course is what the real world is all about. You try to
make an improvement in the movement system of your city, and half the
world jumps on your head. For those of you who think that Ken and his
team are doing a bad job, consider this message from Sustran: ;-)
] On Behalf Of Dharm Guruswamy
Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 8:05 PM
Subject: [sustran] Clean, safe and speedy ... so why has the Busway
worsened traffic jams
Clean, safe and speedy ... so why has the Busway worsened traffic
John Aglionby in Jakarta
Saturday March 27, 2004
You either love or loathe Jakarta's new Busway. You're either
applauding the smart, air-conditioned yellowy-orange buses scything
through the snarled city-centre traffic in specially created lanes,
or cursing them. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground.
Let me state at this point that I'm an emotionally involved. I am a
fan of the scheme. Who wouldn't back a plan to get people out of
their cars and on to public buses that offer a clean, safe, cool and
speedy alternative? Who couldn't support a scheme that cuts by more
than half the rush-hour journey time from one end of the city to the
other? (When isn't it rush hour in Jakarta?)
Whenever I've used the Busway, I've never had to wait more than a
couple of minutes for a bus, it has been extremely efficient and
everyone on board gets a thrill whizzing past the stationary traffic.
When put like that, Governor Sutiyoso's Busway seems a no-brainer,
particularly at the bargain price of £10m and 18p a ride.
The snag, though, is that the scheme hasn't got Jakartans out of
their cars. Mr Sutiyoso decided something had to be done about the
congestion along the city's main north-south artery, which is divided
into five lanes in each direction, two of which are already meant for
buses and slower vehicles.
Fair enough. But after several trips to Bogotá, Columbia, which has
allegedly won the war against congestion, he decided to take the fast
lane of the fast section for his Busway, when there was a perfectly
good lane - the slow lane of the slow section - crying out to be
He painted it red and blocked it off with concrete slabs to prevent
Jakartan motorists from sneaking down it - although that did not stop
the vice president from using it on one occasion, to great public
Then came the problem of how to get people to the buses, across the
other lanes of traffic. Mr Sutiyoso solved that one by cannibalising
the existing pedestrian bridges and hacking down a few trees along
the central reservation for the bus stops.
Initially the plan was to ban other buses from the route, so people
wanting to take a bus would have to ride the Busway and there would
still be four lanes for the selfish people who didn't want to avail
themselves of public transport.
But the ban was never put into effect. So the scene is now that there
are still the smoke-belching, mostly unair-conditioned, body-bashed
buses blocking the slow lanes. They're laden with passengers because
they charge less than half the price of the sleek, often almost-empty
Busway buses. Paying an extra 9p to cut one's journey time is not an
option for many of the capital's residents.
No one has cracked the problem of how to get people to the Busway.
The much-hyped feeder services remain a twinkle in Mr Sutiyoso's eye
and there is no extra parking provided at either end for commuters to
park and ride.
So the result is a traffic-beating system for the tiny minority that
live close enough to the Busway to make use of it. And as for the
rest, they have to allow additional time to get anywhere, as the
traffic is undoubtedly much, much worse than it was before. Perhaps
Mr Sutiyoso should give London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, a call.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004