Eight months from now, Jakartans will be able to enjoy a busway system connecting Blok M in South Jakarta with downtown Kota in West Jakarta after the city administration announced on Thursday that the new scheme would start operating in December.
Jakartans will also get a boon in the form of cheaper tickets -- Rp 3,000 (US cents 32) each compared to the current Rp 3,200 fare for air-conditioned buses.
To allay fears that the project would cause environmental damage and not resolve the traffic congestion problem, the administration has made several changes to the original plan.
Jakarta Land Transportation Agency director Rustam Effendi said the 50 air-conditioned buses would use the left fast lane from Blok M to Harmoni, instead of using the right fast lane as planned earlier. But the buses would still use the right fast lane from Harmoni to Kota.
Another change was the provision of zebra crossings instead of pedestrian bridges for bus passengers from the nearside reservation to the sidewalk.
""We decided to change the method of crossing from bridges to zebra crossings so as to facilitate elderly people and the disabled,"" Rustam said.
The project -- designed by transportation experts from the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University -- had initially involved the felling of hundreds of trees along Jl. Sisingamangaraja, Jl. Jend. Sudirman and Jl. M.H. Thamrin for the building of bus shelters and other facilities for the new transportation system.
Some 40 shelters will be built for commuters under pedestrian bridges in the nearside reservation along the route. Only some 50 air-conditioned buses will be licensed to travel in the fast lanes.
Assistant for Development Affairs to the City Secretary, Irzal Djamal, said a tender for the procurement of the buses and construction of shelters would be announced soon after the preparatory team, which he also chairs, held final consultations with Governor Sutiyoso next Wednesday.
He also said that all companies, both local and foreign, were welcome to bid for the Rp 54 billion project.
Indonesian Consumers' Foundation (YLKI) chairwoman Indah Suksmaningsih expressed pessimism that the 50 buses deployed in the busway system would resolve the problem of traffic jams.
""Do they consider where private cars can pass if one of the three fast lanes is used only by buses,"" she said, adding that the project would probably only cause more congestion.
Indah also questioned the administration's readiness to educate drivers -- who will receive a monthly salary of between Rp 1 and Rp 2 million -- to be disciplined in stopping only at official bus stops.
The administration allowed buses to use the fast lanes along Jl. Jend. Sudirman and Jl. M.H. Thamrin in the early 1990s. The project failed as passengers had difficulty in crossing the slow lane from the nearside reservation to the roadside. The failure forced the administration to abandon the project and revert to the old system where buses used the slow lane.