The City Council has approved an allocation of Rp 54 billion (US$5.4 million) from the 2002 city budget for a busway project connecting Blok M in South Jakarta with downtown Kota in West Jakarta.
Deputy chairman of the council's Commission D for development affairs, Ali Imran Husein, claimed that the project would improve public transportation in Jakarta.
"We support it but we would also urge the city administration to better explain the technical details," Ali, of the United Development Party, told reporters on Monday.
He said the planned procurement of some 50 air-conditioned buses should be done transparently to avoid public suspicions about possible corruption in the project, which is due to start in October of this year.
The busway project was one of several projects included on the agenda of a two-day meeting held by the council to discuss the city's Rp 8.9 billion draft budget in Puncak, Bogor, West Java.
But because the meeting ended inconclusively last Friday, the council approved the busway project during an extension of their meeting at the council building here on Saturday.
A number of councillors feared that the project, which was designed by transportation experts from the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, would cause traffic jams and environmental damage.
Hundreds of trees along the Blok M-Kota route, especially along Jl. Sisingamangaraja, Jl. Jend. Sudirman, and Jl. MH. Thamrin, will be cut to pave the way for the development of bus shelters and other facilities for the new transportation system.
Ali of the United Development Party warned the administration about possible environmental damage as a result of the project's development.
"The cutting of the trees should be carried out carefully. It's okay if it will only involve cutting the tops of the trees, not felling them completely," he told reporters.
As the new system will require dedicated bus lanes and reduce the lanes available to private cars, it is feared that the plan could worsen traffic congestion along the affected roads.
"Yes, it will create traffic jams. It will be inconvenient for private car owners. But, we cannot please everybody," the City Transportation Agency's Program Management Division head D.A. Rini said.
Although the project has yet to commence, the Indonesian Land Transportation Owners' Association (Organda)'s Jakarta chapter head Aip Syaifuddin rejected the project if it would cause losses to his association's members.
"If some of our bus routes are going to be taken over by the project, we will reject it," Aip told reporters at City Hall.
However, he praised the new system for instituting a monthly fixed salary for drivers. The current system requires the drivers to pay a daily rental fee, thus causing their daily income to fluctuate according to the number of passengers they carry per day.
As a result, drivers are inclined to take on as many passengers as possible and to drive recklessly without paying attention to traffic signs and passenger safety.