A report from the National News Service Antara provides insights and background on the problems surrounding Bali's mounting traffic congestion and efforts to popularize mass transit on the island.
"Gosh, I'm fed up if I take public transport in Denpasar (the capital of Bali). It costs so much and passengers must wait until the vehicle is full," complained Budi Agustijono.
Hailing from Bondowoso in East Java, Budi shared his experience of using the city's public transport system when he first began his course work in applied arts at Bali's Udayana University in 2000.
Passengers can be forced to wait up to one hour for the public transport to depart. The cost of the trip is also a problem. A trip from the Udayana University to Jimbaran costs Rp. 2,500 (US$0.25).
Rohmat, a reporter, had a similar experienced when he first started working in Bali in 2001. The young man from Central Java lives on Jalan Cokroaminoto in Denpasar and works on Jalan Hayum Wuruk, a distance of less than 10 kilometers.
Rohmat explained: "I have to take two different local buses with a cost of between Rp. 2,000 to Rp. 3,000 (US$0.20 - US$0.30). If I take two buses, the cost becomes Rp. 4,000 - Rp. 6,000. So, a round trip can cost me Rp. 10,000 (US$1.00) every day. My wages are only Rp. 450,000 (US$45.00) a month."
In order to conserve on his transportation costs, Rohmat needs ingenuity and often hitches a ride on a friend's motorcycle so he only needs to take two buses each day, reducing his costs by half.
This is the situation faced by many public transport users in Denpasar and perhaps explains the diminishing passenger loads, despite Bali's burgeoning population. In the final analysis, public transport in Denpasar and the regencies of Badung and Tabanan is not user-friendly.
Updating the public transport system in Denpasar 10 years after his arrival, Budi, who now works as an insurance salesman, says: "Now? Oh, it's worse. You have to wait so long and the cost is very high."
Moreover, for a short trip of less than 5 kilometers, the drivers of local public transport ask as much as Rp. 5,000 (US$0.50). Because of the high cost and long waiting times, many buses sit idle at the terminal.
The Chairman of Bali's Organization for Land Transport (ORGANDA), Ketut Edi Dharma Putra, admits that public transport in the city and surrounding communities are empty, abandoned by a public who have no wish for their poor service. Putra sees a number of causes for this unhappy state of affair including the lack of fixed routes, uncertain operating schedules and transport ticket prices that are too high.
The cost of a single journey can reach Rp. 5,000 - Rp. 10,000 (US$0.50 - US$1.00) - a cost that's beyond the financial capacity of many workers. A worker can spend Rp. 20,000 a day on public transport. "You can imagine the high cost for a worker who needs to take two or three buses to get to work, " said Putra.
In such a situation, Putra said it is only fair if the people look for alternative means of transport, such as motorcycles. People considering purchasing a motorcycle can be "on the road" with a down payment of as little as Rp. 500,000 (US$50.00).
Putra continued: "Besides, with a motorcycle, the cost of getting to the office every day can be reduced. One liter of gasoline is more than enough to travel back and forth from work."
The ease of motorcycle ownership has crowded Bali's streets with the two-wheeled vehicles. Data from the Bali police estimate that between 10,000 to 15,000 new motorcycles join the congestion of the island's roads and highways every month.
Reflecting the popularity of motorcycles in Indonesia, PT Astra Honda Motor (AHM) just produced its 25th million bike in October of 2009. The Executive Vice President of AHM, Johannes Loman, admits the lack of good public transport, has help propelled the high production numbers for his company in Indonesia. "As a producer, it's our job to assist the public to become more productive and efficient in their work and general activities," explained Loman. The Honda executive also points with pride the how his company has helped the Indonesian economy expand, creating thousands of jobs.
The large number of motorcycles on Indonesia's roads has brought a special set of problems to the nation. The fast and sleek two-wheeled vehicles are often driven at a high rate of speed. The sheer numbers of vehicles on the roads have added to traffic jams and overall traffic congestion. And, perhaps most tragically, the Bali police reveal that an average 3 people die every day on Bali's roads.
The Director of Traffic for the Bali Police, Bambang Sugeng, blamed the high level of traffic accidents in Bali on the growing number of vehicles, including motorcycles, without any corresponding increase in roadways. He is joined by the spokesman of the Bali police, Gde Sugianyar, who warns that more vehicles without more roads will only add to Bali's traffic jams.
Sugianyar said: "The government does not have the right to limit the number of people who can purchase vehicles or to ban cars from traveling to Bali. However, the government must also pay attention to the supporting infrastructure to counterbalance the growth in vehicle numbers." The Bali police spokesman said the only solution to Bali's traffic congestion is to add to Bali's road infrastructure and through the provision of good public transport.
In the meantime, AHM and the police are trying to improve road safety and improve the enforcement of traffic rules. The police recently introduced rules requiring motorcycles to operate with their headlights "on" whenever they take to the road, day or night. Those driving motorcycles without their lights "on" are subject to fines of Rp. 100,000 (US$10.00).
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