Buses, Angkots and Rustpots Driving Jakarta Residents Crazy
“It feels like I’m getting inside a rusty can every time I take a Kopaja or Metro Mini,” says Lutvia, a college student. “But do I have a choice? No. That’s the transportation I can afford.”
Lutvia, like most Jakarta commuters who take the bus, does so more out of necessity than choice. Key among her many criticisms of Jakarta’s road-going public transportation is the state of the vehicles, particularly the smoke-belching Kopajas and Metro Minis.
Then there’s the issue of security, with pickpockets mingling among passengers in packed buses, and a recent series of sexual assaults targeting lone women aboard angkots, or public minivans.
The vehicles also manage to grate on other drivers with their dangerous zigzagging and propensity for stopping in the middle of the road to drop off and pick up passengers.
According to the local chapter of the Organization of Land Transportation Owners (Organda), there are currently 23,600 public vehicles on Jakarta’s streets. They range from full-size buses and mid-size Kopajas and Metro Minis, to the various types of angkot.
Udar Pristono, the head of the Jakarta Transportation Office, says that the difficulty in regulating the vehicles lies primarily with the fact that most are owned by private individuals and don’t operate out of a depot.
“They take to the streets from someone’s garage, not from a depot, so it’s difficult to deal with the owners,” he tells the Jakarta Globe.
“But we will revitalize those vehicles,” he added. “They will be properly registered and hopefully the drivers will be paid a fixed salary.”
The way the drivers are currently paid has long been blamed for their reckless driving, as most are forced to pick up as many passengers and make as many trips as possible each day in order to turn even a meager profit.
Waluyo, 50, is one such driver. Each morning, he goes and picks up a Metro Mini at the owner’s home in South Jakarta before starting his route, which takes him from Pondok Indah to Blok M in South Jakarta.
He has to pay the owner a Rp 300,000 ($33) rental fee for the vehicle each day, known as setoran , regardless of whether he makes that much in fares. Anything left over after paying the setoran and buying diesel fuel is his to keep.
With more people now able to afford a motorcycle, and others opting to take the TransJakarta busway, Waluyo says he considers himself lucky if he can take home Rp 50,000 at the end of the day.
Under this sort of pressure, concerns about the vehicle’s roadworthiness or emissions — or passenger comfort and safety — are secondary to drivers like Waluyo.
Azas Tigor Nainggolan, head of the nongovernmental Jakarta Transportation Council (DTKJ) and a Metro Mini owner himself, says owners have long called on the city to better regulate the buses, drivers and errant owners.
He says many Metro Minis operate without a route license, while some drivers, particularly younger ones, do not have a driver’s license.
“The only reason this is allowed to happen is because they can bribe the police and transportation officials,” he says. “So the city needs to work on this.”
Udar, however, says regular checks are being carried out but that it is difficult to enforce regulations when bus ownership is so fragmented.
Law & Disorder
This problem prompted the passage of the 2009 Law on Traffic and Road Vehicles, which stipulates that all operators of road-going public transportation vehicles must be registered as a legal entity, or company.
Owners who continue to operate their vehicles privately will have their licenses rescinded, according to the law. It also mandates the establishment of depots for all buses and a fixed salary for drivers and their assistants.
“Under this policy, we hope these vehicles can be better organized,” Udar says. “It will also put less pressure on the drivers so that they won’t have to race to pay the setoran.”
In the three years since the law was passed, however, the city administration has been unable to enforce the stipulations. Enforcement, Udar says, remains contingent on the Transportation Ministry issuing a supporting regulation to implement the law, which it has yet to do.
His office, he says, has pressed the ministry to promptly issue the regulation, even seeking support from the Presidential Unit for Development, Supervision and Oversight (UKP4), which is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Greater Jakarta transportation master plan for 2030.
In the meantime, the city administration has not been standing idly by, he says. While it waits for the ministry to issue the regulation, the transportation office carries out regular checks for licenses on board Metro Minis, Kopajas, buses and angkots.
Bambang Ervan, a spokesman for the Transportation Ministry, tells the Globe that his office is still working on the regulation. “We’re still discussing it, including evaluating the best way to frame it so that it won’t give create any undue controversy,” he said.
It is no small task, he adds. Currently, the ministry is looking at the possibility of applying a system similar to the one in use in Yogyakarta. Under that system, drivers of road-going public vehicles are paid a fixed salary according to how long they have been driving.
The question now, Bambang says, is whether that system can plausibly work in Jakarta as well.
“I can’t say when we expect to finish [the regulation],” he adds. “But we’re already working on it and have actually started to train people who are involved in this issue.”
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