Bayu Marhaenjati, Lenny Tristia Tambun & Fidelis E. Satriastanti
To many Jakarta motorists, an empty lane on a congested street is too much of a temptation to resist, despite the threat of a Rp 1 million ($105) fine. It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that the lanes designed almost exclusively for TransJakarta buses in order to speed up services are often filled with other vehicles.
With rampant trespassing and rare enforcement action, even Social Affairs Minister Salim Segaf Al Jufri succumbed to the temptation.
Two years ago, the minister came under online fire after a Twitter user posted pictures of his car speeding along a busway lane. Salim claimed it was his driver’s fault but paid a Rp 500,000 fine on his driver’s behalf.
But there is a more dangerous side to the trespassing than facing a rebuke online. According to data from the Jakarta Police, there have been 515 accidents involving the busway in the past three years, including 36 fatalities.
The latest fatality came on Monday when two people on a motorcycle were hit by a TransJakarta bus. The motorcycle’s rider Ahmad Rizky, 24, and his passenger Angga Hermanto, 23, died instantly.
It is not clear whether the motorbike was trespassing in a busway lane, but witnesses reported seeing the motorcycle traveling the opposite way before slamming onto the right side of an incoming bus’s front bumper.
The incident brought the number of fatalities this year to seven people and the number of accidents to 15.
The figure is still significantly lower than the 101 accidents and 16 fatalities recorded last year, but officials are planning to put a stop to the trespassers and accidents.
At present, a small, 10-centimeter concrete divide partitions the TransJakarta lanes from the rest of the traffic. After a pedestrian was hit by a bus in July — and the TransJakarta bus was subsequently vandalized by an angry mob — officials announced plans to install 30-centimeter-high barriers.
But after Monday’s accident, police and the Jakarta Transportation Agency are calling for 50-centimeter-high barriers.
“We hope raising the separator can effectively reduce the number of accidents on the busway lanes,” said Bernard Hutajulu, head of Jakarta Traffic Engineering. “It is expected to sterilize the busway lanes as people will find it difficult to cross, and motorcycles can not cross the separators. Therefore, we will make it 50 centimeters.”
The tender for the new rubber-made separator project was recently settled, with work on the barriers expected to start in September and be completed by December.
The projects will be carried out in five busway corridors that authorities say are prone to accidents: Harmoni-Pulogadung, Kalideres-Pasar Baru, Pulogadung-Dukuh Atas, Kampung Melayu-Ancol and Lebak Bulus-Harmoni. Bernard said six other corridors would be proposed in next year’s budget.
The project’s budget is expected to cost Rp 22.5 billion.
TransJakarta general affairs chief M. Akbar said officials have made every effort to reduce the number of accidents, including by providing special training for drivers and by posting dozens of officials to the street to prevent private vehicles from entering the bus lane.
“The high number of vehicles that cross into the busway lane has been the main cause of accidents between TransJakarta buses and motorcycles,” Akbar said. “Therefore, our only hope is that a busway separator elevation project should be undertaken soon.”
Officials have also proposed upgrading Jakarta’s pedestrian crossings and street lights given many pedestrians jaywalk.
Busway drivers said the plan was long overdue. “For us the drivers, we want [the busway] lanes to be sterilized [from other vehicles],” said one TransJakarta driver, who asked to be identified only as A.S., because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
“If the lanes are safe the passengers will feel safe and comfortable as well. As drivers we are asked to provide services and as a driver one of my duties is to provide comfort to the passengers.”
The driver, who operates on the corridor I route from Blok M in South Jakarta to Kota in West Jakarta, said trespassing was common, lengthening commuting time for buses and increasing the risk of an accident.
“You can see it for yourself. Every day there’s some people who trespass. Based on my experience, we usually find vehicles trespassing in this corridor at 1 p.m. or 2 p.m., especially when we get to the Glodok area [West Jakarta],” A.S. said.
“What is upsetting, is that if one is trespassing the barrier while we are approaching, this bus just can’t stop abruptly because of its weight.
“Even if you hit the breaks, [the bus] will still roll. That is why it is hard for us to avoid [collisions], especially when it is unexpected and the bus is traveling at high speed.”
Corridor I cuts through the heart of Jakarta, passing business districts and some of the capital’s more developed areas. Even with several crossings for people throughout the length of the corridor, many people still risk their lives and jaywalk to save time.
In the July accident, a TransJakarta bus was vandalized by an angry mob after hitting a pedestrian, prompting the operator to reroute the service for about an hour.
The victim, Supriadi, 22, sustained minor injuries and was treated at the nearby Sumber Waras Hospital, but the accident prompted dozens of bystanders to smash the bus’s windows.
The incident came just five days after a 10-year-old boy was instantly killed after being hit by a TransJakarta bus in Mampang, South Jakarta.
An angry mob later vandalized the TransJakarta bus, smashing its windows and body before leaving it badly damaged.
A.S. said jaywalking and trespassing were getting worse.
“It is frustrating as well as dangerous, but what can we do? It is them who broke the rules. This corridor used to be the most sterile, no one dared to enter. But lately it is getting more and more frequent,” he said.
“Because other vehicles also enter [the lanes], the buses get stuck in traffic. It is no use honking at them, they still trespass. So the comfort and security [of passengers] are declining.”
Even those tasked with enforcing the law are frequent trespassers themselves.
In January, a TransJakarta worker, Rocky, ended up in hospital after an armed police officer threatened to kill him when he tried to stop an armored security van the officer was escorting from illegally using a bus lane in Central Jakarta.
After Rocky tried to stop the armored van, belonging to Securicor, the police officer lifted his standard-issue assault rifle and fired a shot into the air next to Rocky’s left ear.
The shot burst Rocky’s eardrum, leaving him with hearing problems.
The busway lane is dedicated to buses belonging to TransJakarta and may be used by ambulances and fire trucks in emergency situations like floods or other disasters. Akbar said the Securicor van had no excuse for being in the lane and defended his officer’s action.
Alvinsyah, a public transportation expert from the University of Indonesia, said raising the height of the barriers would only temporarily solve the problem, citing many people’s tendency to see rules as something that are “meant to be broken and not followed.”
The expert suggested there should be more TransJakarta buses to occupy the frequently vacant lanes.
“The lanes should not be empty,” he said. “If for example there is a bus passing every three minutes, other [vehicles] will not be tempted to enter the busway lanes. If they see that the lanes are always busy they will not dare to trespass.”