This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Transjakarta busway: a public transport system beset by financial scams. Even before the project commenced, funds allocated for the busway were diverted to buy marked up equipment for the City Transportation Agency. This included laptops falsely priced at Rp.50 million each and walkie-talkies at Rp.8 million per unit.
Fast-forward in the slow lane to 2014 and little has changed. Buses sold for the equivalent of Rp.1 billion ($86,300) each in China were being purchased for Jakarta’s busway at the marked up price of Rp.3 billion. Some of the buses from Chinese firm Ankai broke down within days and were found to contain faulty and rusty parts. Officials in the past have said the buses have an expected lifespan of just seven years. Breakdowns are not uncommon. There have even been fires on some buses.
The busway network now spans over 170 kilometres and carries nearly 400,000 passengers each day. With tickets priced at Rp.3,500 (and Rp.2,500 from 5am to 7am), annual ticket revenue can be conservatively estimated at Rp.420 billion. The Transjakarta Management Body operated in 2013 with a budget of Rp.1.3 trillion, of which Rp.886 billion was provided by the Jakarta Regional Budget.
Funds allocated for maintenance and cleaning crews do not seem to be put to good use. The busway operates 12 corridors, with fleets that vary greatly in quality. Among the worst are the grey rattletraps plying Corridor 6, which goes through Kuningan, linking Ragunan and Dukuh Atas 2. Seats are broken, door hinges and gaskets are missing, there are holes in some floors, and broken “automatic” doors are tied shut with wire and plastic.
The ticketing system is supposed to be fully automated so that all commuters can use e-tickets. In January 2013, several banks began selling durable e-tickets, which are ‘tapped’ at entrance turnstiles and can be topped up with credit. A non-government organisation called the Citizens Coalition for Transport Management Demand led the push for e-ticketing, warning that manual ticket sales could be prone to manipulation and misuse of proceeds.
Most tickets are still sold manually and printed on paper that does no favours for the environment. Upon entering a busway terminal or shelter, commuters line up to purchase tickets measuring 15cm by 7.5cm. A stub of the ticket is then torn off and kept by a turnstile attendant, who usually uses an e-ticket to tap each commuter through a single turnstile. The large remainder of the ticket instantly becomes rubbish as the buses have no ticket inspectors. The size of the tickets could be reduced by half or more, if Transjakarta wanted to save money and paper. Ticket vending machines could also be introduced.
Transjakarta’s environmental policies are on display at Harmoni, one of its busiest terminals. There, bus guards throw their daily lunch wrappers and other plastic waste into an adjacent canal and onto the road. Harmoni is the same terminal where guards were recently accused of molesting a woman who had fainted on a bus.
Some ticket vendors are prone to slowness in giving change. A commuter hands over Rp.5,000 and is immediately given a ticket, while the Rp.1,500 change can take much longer to materialise and is sometimes placed almost out of reach, as if in the hope it will be left behind. Still, that’s peanuts compared to the massive mark-ups in the cost of “new” buses. The case was reported by an NGO to the Corruption Eradication Commission, which is yet to launch an investigation. The city administration confirmed there were irregularities but instead referred the case to the Supreme Audit Agency. Deputy Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Purnama has suggested Transjakarta should in future purchase buses made by European firms such as Mercedes Benz and Scania.
Corruption aside, one of the main problems facing the busway is that its dedicated lanes are often encroached upon and jammed by motorists. Police in late 2013 began enforcing fines of Rp.500,000 for motorcycles and Rp.1 million for cars in the busway lanes. Since then, ongoing enforcement has been haphazard. Police recently launched a website – http://www.tertiblantas.com – where people can upload photos of vehicles transgressing the busway lanes. Supposedly the motorists will then be summoned and fined.
Despite the criticism, the busway is great – when it works. Managers just need to learn to have buses running in five-minute frequencies, rather than have five buses travelling one immediately after the other and then a gap of 15 minutes before the next bus.