A Day with TJ BusWay

It was almost Sunday noon when Dewi and I finally decided to go out and use public transportation to get to a place. The destination was Grand Indonesia shopping mall, at the compound previously known as Hotel Indonesia and Hotel Inna Wisata complex, with three things in my mind: to have lunch, to watch movie at Blitz, and to use the TransJakarta BusWay system.

It would be the first time for us to use TransJakarta BusWay, the popular new mode of transportation for Jakartans. Whilst I started the habit of leaving car at home during Saturdays and Sundays since a few months back, but I normally use taxi instead of using other mode of public transportation. That day, however, was the BusWay day for me.

We got on MetroMini No.47 from Jl. I Gusti Ngurah Rai towards Rawamangun. It's been a while I haven't used MetroMini, but the driver recklessness style remains the same. MetroMini is still one of the scariest street kings that can run quite fast in a heavy traffic, stop abruptly anytime, anywhere, and as long as they deem necessary.

There she was, standing near the front door of the Metromini, a poor little girl at about 6 years of age, standing and playing her simple tool while sang a song that was so hard for me to comprehend. It was partly because of the noisy roaring Metromini engine, partly because her mumbling and flat voice, and most likely because I really don't know the mysterious song.

A few minutes later, another little girl of less than 4 years of age, walked unsteadily on the moving like mad Metromini to collect donations from passengers. Moments later, they both seated at the back row calculating their earning during the trip. The two girls finally got off at Klender flyover to meet their boss, most likely their mom, who's waiting peacefully below a shady tree. Life's tough.

We got off from Metromini at Velodrom Busway shelter, right after Arion Plaza, with left foot touching down the street asphalt first, a simple knowledge in order to get off from running Metromini safely. We paid Rp.3,500 each at the TJ ticketing box, and after a manual inspection at the entrance gate, we entered the waiting area. Five minutes later we were in the TJ bus.

The seats were quite comfortable, the aircon worked well and it's relatively clean. Perhaps because of lunch time, the bus was not that crowded. It was fast, and we went out from the bus at Dukuh Atas stopping point, and walked through the bridge crossing Jl. Jend. Sudirman to get into another Busway shelter towards Kota or Blok-M. It was really a long walk, but there's no need to purchase new ticket to continue our journey to Grand Indonesia.

TransJakarta Busway, taken at the TJ shelter in front of MMC Hospital, Kuningan

We got into a crowded TransJakarta Busway towards Kota with a full speed of aircon fan that made the bus temperature at a comfortable level. There were announcements of destinations by a female voice whenever the bus approaching a stopping point. We got out from the bus in front of Plaza Indonesia, and walked around five minutes to Grand Indonesia, in a hot sunny day.

The fresh cold aircon greeted us upon entering the mall, and we filled up our empty stomach at Waroeng Kita. The oxtail soup could satisfy my simple taste. We then stopped at Kinokuniya bookstore. I bought Ketika Cinta Bertasbih, a novel by Habiburrahman El Shirazy, author of the best selling book and successful movie of Ayat-ayat Cinta, and a guide book for learning electric bass. We finally went to eighth floor and chose to watch Indiana Jones, three stars out of five.

After watching movie, we went straight home using the return route. I enjoyed a solo saxophone performance by a skinny young man while crossing the bridge towards Busway ticketing box in front of Plaza Indonesia. We paid the same Busway fare and were given card instead of ticket to be inserted into a machine to enter the waiting area. The bus was full but we managed to get space.

We went out from the bus at Jembatan Dukuh Atas shelter, walked through the long crossing bridge to the other Busway shelter serving the route to Pulo Gadung or to Kuningan-Ragunan. There was a long thick queue at the Pulo Gadung route, which was fine until there was small chaos when a bus stopped but the bus guard said that it would stop at Sunan Giri instead of Pulo Gadung to refill gas fuel.

Those who wanted to go to Pulo Gadung remained at their place but needed to give a way to those who wanted to take the bus. It messed up the crowded queue. The second bus did the same, and we decided to get into the bus, squeezing our body to move among the thick crowd.

We went out from the TransJakarta Bus at Pasar Sunan Giri, got on a Metromini No.47 and entertained by a young boy with his ukulele at his hand singing a typical street song. We got off at across Jl. Buaran 1, crossed Jl. I Gusti Ngurah Rai and walked towards home. End of the journey.

In general, I enjoyed the experience of using the TransJakarta Busway on that Sunday. It was fast, relatively cheap and convenient. During workdays it would be quite more challenging with that kind of queuing arrangements. The following day I read an article at the Jakarta Post that there were still dangerous holes left untouched at pedestrian bridges in a couple of Busway shelter. Improvements are definitely needed.

In a crowded Busway shelter, it would be good to arrange the queue in a group of three by three persons, with a space between the first and the second group. The door to load and unload passenger shall be separated, as already been done in some shelters. This way, it will be easier to control the maximum number of passengers in a bus, by loading and unloading exactly the same number of passengers. Volunteers maybe needed for 3-6 months to instill the new habit.

Busway user community forum, such as Suara TransJakarta.org, shall be promoted widely to listen to voices of the passengers and address the issue immediately. A measurement of response time shall be established. A once in month meeting between Jakarta administration and member of Busway user community forum to discuss alternative solutions of any problems can also be considered.

Praise for Sutiyoso, who stubbornly moved ahead with the project amid strong critics from many Jakartans at the beginning of the project. It’s now Fauzi Bowo administration's turn to make Busway to be the most convenient and dignified mode of public transportation for Jakartans. With that and with the skyrocketing fuel prices, more car owners would certainly opt to leave their cars at home and use TJ instead. We will then be able save more energy, reduce the scary global warming, and live more healthy lives.

, seorang pejalan musiman dan penyuka sejarah. Penduduk Jakarta yang sedang tinggal di Cikarang Utara. Diperbarui: June 11, 2008.

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