With more than 13,000 islands, even fellow Indonesians can feel like foreigners in the world’s largest archipelago nation. The islands vary widely in language and culture, which can complicate efforts by residents of one island to secure community buy-in on another island. Such was ITDP Indonesia’s challenge when it sought to introduce BRT to transport operators in Medan, the country’s third-largest city with over three million people and home to the fiercely independent Batak ethnic group.
For the last few decades, Medan residents have mostly commuted via mini-buses, run by some 11 private transport operators. While there are a plethora of routes, the mini-buses lack comfort and safety. As a result, in recent years the number of mini-bus passengers has decreased and Medan residents began switching to private vehicles, which has clogged city streets. Sensing an opportunity to revamp Medan’s transport system, ITDP Indonesia set up a plan last year to introduce BRT. But first, the Jakarta-based office had to find an entrée with the Batak.
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