April 06, 2015

Jakarta`s dubious elevated bus rapid transit plan

JakartaPost – The government has decided to build a new corridor for the Transjakarta bus rapid transit (BRT) system. Corridor 13, as they will call it, according to the order of construction, is feared will bring bad luck to Transjakarta, as well as to Jakarta, but this is not because of the number 13, but due to the poor logic and design behind the construction.

Transjakarta’s Corridor 13 will connect Ciledug and Tendean in South Jakarta. It will be built almost entirely as an elevated corridor. This means the BRT system’s buses will travel on the elevated road, with stations also elevated.


This elevated corridor will be built at an average 12 meters from the ground and in some locations will even reach 25 m.

Although the design includes the installation of escalators and elevators at some stations, we have seen too many cases of failed elevators in Transjakarta.

No one can guarantee that these features will work for Corridor 13.

However, the problem with Corridor 13 does not end here. As this corridor will be built without an exit and entry ramp in the middle, buses will only be able to enter the corridor from Ciledug or Tendean, where the corridor starts and ends.

If you live in Ciledug and your office is on Jl. Sudirman or Jl. MH Thamrin in Central Jakarta, your life could be made more miserable by taking the BRT.

Why? With the absence of an exit and entry ramp in the middle, if you want to change from Corridor 13 to Corridor 1, a stop at Trunojoyo would be needed, and you would also need to walk down many stairs before queuing at the Corridor 1 station at Blok M. The return journey would be worse as you would have to climb the stairs.

In principle, no BRT corridor should be elevated, but if it really needs to be, the existence of these exit and entry ramps could at least avoid the above situation.

Without ramps in the middle, Corridor 13 will miss the opportunity to physically and operationally integrate with Corridor 8, which runs from Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta to Harmoni in Central Jakarta, and Corridor 1 from Blok M in South Jakarta to Kota in West Jakarta.

It is really unfortunate to see that almost Rp 2.5 trillion (US$193 million) of taxpayers’ money will be wasted for something that is impractical and will create very little benefit for citizens.

BRT projects around the world are never designed to destroy the cities in which they are built. In many cities, such as Bogota, constructing a BRT system paved the way for the city government to transform its city. In Guangzhou, China, a BRT system helped the city push an agenda for a transit-oriented city.

There are many other examples that show the role of BRT projects as a trigger for larger urban regeneration, but sadly, Transjakarta’s Corridor 13 will not follow that path.

The construction of this elevated corridor has started to destroy some areas of the city. At the end of March, all those big old trees along Tendean and Wolter Monginsidi will have disappeared to allow room to large, elevated structures.

The current elevated BRT corridor design also suggests that each direction will have two lanes, which is unnecessary.

The elevated BRT corridor should only be built with one lane for each direction and with an overtaking lane only at the BRT station.

Building a continuous second lane on the elevated corridor will allow cars to enter the corridor, and if cars do so, the whole elevated BRT corridor plan will look like a scam and it will confirm the fears of Jakartans that it is an excuse for the government to build more elevated roads and highways in the city.

Luckily, it is not too late to turn this around. Although a contract has been signed and the construction started a few weeks ago, they are still working to clear the site and perform some tests.

Two options can be offered to Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. Either cancel the construction entirely or modify the design and contract.

The first option is preferable but will create many new problems. Modifying the design and contract seems to be more realistic.

It is not too difficult to make the current design workable.

First, entry and exit ramps should be provided at several key locations, especially where Corridor 13 intersects with Corridor 1 and Corridor 8 of Transjakarta, so that buses can go directly to those corridors.

Second, one lane in the current design is mandatory, except where the overtaking lane is required at stations.

This is to prevent cars accessing the corridor and also reducing the project cost, which at an average of Rp 18.5 million per kilometer, could make the corridor one of the most expensive BRT corridors in the world but with so little passengers to carry.

Ahok should pay attention to this project immediately. As the city’s leader, he should take a quick decision to fix this problem before it is too late and question the relevant parties involved in the design of this corridor.

A very transparent and thorough investigation of the Corridor 13 BRT plan needs to be undertaken.

With so many flaws in the current plan, Ahok should invite the public to raise its concerns, accept the mistakes that his administration made on this corridor and put very strong efforts into improving the design.


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