the wheels on the bus

Futurarc features Jakarta's rapidly expanding and resoundingly successful Bus Rapid Transit system in this article ("Busway Moves: Jakarta’s bus rapid transit system offers hope for the rest of the city’s gridlocked transport" -by Erwin Maulana and Christen Jamar. via Erwin Maluana's blog: Rwien Universe.)

Again, multiple lessons we can learn from a sister megacity where:

Driving speeds averaging less than 15 kilometres an hour during peak times, and average commutes taking well over an hour...(the) city suffers from problems experienced in developing urban centres not only in Asia but worldwide. A combination of urban migration and growing access to cars have created a nasty snarl of traffic as Jakarta’s nearly nine million residents try to get around the city. Bring in the out-of-town commuters, estimated to swell the city’s population on a daily basis by three million people, and you’ve got the makings of an incessant and impenetrable traffic jam.

Among the many unwelcome side effects of such an unsustainable transportation network are a depressed quality of life, lower productivity and, perhaps most importantly, unhealthy air quality.

(c.f. -
Peter's June 5 post "Bleah" on Metroblogging Manila -and the link to the Kate Pedroso's short article in Inquirer. -UDC)

And this analysis by Sutanto Soehodho, chairman of the Jakarta City Transportation Council (DTK-J), an urban transport stakeholder organisation. (Don't we need one of those?)

“Jakarta’s transportation conditions today are approaching crisis level,” says Sutanto Soehodho...(He) says that Jakarta’s main form of public transportation—the city bus system—is currently utilised by only two percent of the population. That is because the buses are over-crowded and uncomfortable; the other form of public transport, a light rail, provides dismal service and an inconvenient network. As a result, most people prefer the solitude and personal space of their cars, even if it means waking up earlier.

There have been regular efforts to expand the road network, but ultimately, transport experts say, energy should be directed at cutting down the number of cars. (Emphasis mine -UDC) According to Sutanto, the length of the road network increases by one percent each year, while vehicle use is climbing 11 percent annually. If they continue at that rate, he says, “Jakarta will totally collapse in traffic” by 2014.

The Jakarta Macro Transportation Scheme, Jakarta's blueprint for transportation (again, don't we need one of those?) includes:

...efforts to limit car usage, such as increasing public parking costs, congestion pricing and enforcing the 3-in-1 system (in high-traffic zones at peak hours, each car must be transporting at least three people). It also includes some road infrastructure improvements, such as widening roads and building flyovers and underpasses. The scheme’s major infrastructure projects include monorail lines and a mass rapid transit (MRT) subway. The government is also looking at the city’s waterways for transport.

..and of course, the TransJakarta Bus Rapid Transit system which...
... has turned out to be an enormous success. It currently carries 100,000 passengers a day, triple the amount it was carrying when it started. Surveys have indicated that 14 percent of Busway riders used to drive; and 80 percent of people asked said they would switch to the Busway system if it was accessible.

Its popularity has led to a rapid expansion—after the first line was launched in 2004, another two started operating in 2005, and yet another four in January of this year. By 2010 the government intends to have 15 corridors in operation, covering a total length of 159 kilometres, according to the DTK-J.

Compare that the the Metro Manila Urban Transportation Integration Project (MMUTRIP) that calls for mainly road expansion and signalization as a solution to traffic congestion. MMUTRIP will cover:

...traffic management improvements of the 3 most heavily used public transport corridors in MM. These are EDSA LRT Line 3 Corridor, LRT Line 2 Corridor and the South Luzon Expressway Corridor. It will also include the improvement of selected secondary roads to better disperse traffic over the road network and reduce congestions in arterial roads. Phase I components of the Project are:

1. On-going construction work for the 2,424 m. secondary road of Pasong Tamo. The civil works will include road, sidewalk and drainage improvements, installation of 3 new traffic signal facilities, 6 waiting sheds, 80 streetlights, 1,688 lm of pedestrian barriers including landscaping works.

2. Construction works for the improvement of EDSA Corridor through the improvement of identified secondary roads and 6 major intersecting roads. It will also involve the construction of new pedestrian bridges, rehabilitation of existing ones, elevated walkways, covered sidewalks and waiting sheds.

3. Finalization of the engineering designs for the improvement of LRT Line 2 Corridor (C.M Rector to Marcos Highway).

In MMDA's world: pedestrian barriers, yes; better bus systems, no. ("But all the important people are in cars...")

Meanwhile, Futurarc lists the sweet reasons for TransJakarta's success:
First, it is an easy and, perhaps more importantly, cheap system to get up and running quickly—the construction required is limited to building shelters and physically separating the bus lane from the rest of vehicle traffic. The shelters are clean; the buses are comfortable and more fuel-efficient. The system has been integrated into the light rail transit (LRT) coming in from the suburbs and with inter-city bus stations in Jakarta’s suburban towns. Plans are in place to integrate the system further with the monorail, subway and water-based transport systems.

And this last line, should be a daily mantra for all our traffic managers and transportation planners.
Sutanto agrees the Busway is the best way of alleviating traffic quickly in Jakarta. “One bus can carry 80 people. Sixty-five cars would be needed to carry the same number of people,” he says.
Ah, but first, we have to get them out of their cars.

Image Credit: Jakarta's Mass Transit System 2015
From Futurarc.com


Eugene said...

Good luck prying off the bus (and jeepney) operators of Metro Manila's lanes. MMDA's plans of organizing the buses into the Organized Bus Route System is really something similar to Jakarta's system, but employing the private bus operators.

Due to the stubbornness of the bus drivers, the OBRS was a failure. I actually blame the bus operators for this problem rather than the MMDA (under Fernando) who at least tried to experiment with a lot of schemes to alleviate traffic.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

Sigh, do I really suck at getting my point across?

The OBRS is NOTHING like a BRT.

The OBRS was a failure because it was a "traffic discipline" program. NOT a mass transit efficiency program.

We need the political will do this -and if Bogota, Mexico City, Curitiba, Johannesburg and Jakarta were able to do it, why not us?

And yes, Bogota, Mexico City, Curitiba, Johannesburg and Jakarta also have private bus operators with vested interests -the trick was to make BRT profitable for them (by converting them into transportation consortia) and for the drivers (by moving them into structured salary and benefits).

The whole point is: IT'S NOT ABOUT ALLEVIATING TRAFFIC, it's about more efficient mass transit. IT'S NOT ABOUT CONGESTION, it's about mobility.

The point is not to find blame but to work towards a paradigm shift in our collective thinking.

I'm starting to feel like Sisyphus.

Eugene said...

Sorry if I ruffled your feathers! But I have not been following all your blog posts from the very beginning. Alright? It would've been nice if you had added context to your posts (in the way of linking to relevant past blog posts) so that you won't "suck at getting your point across."

But I'll quote you from an old post that you pointed out in your comment just now: "Though I'm not too keen on Bayani's Fernando's design ethic ... but his efforts to put together the organized bus route system is commendable. I know they are packaging it as a traffic solution ... but it really is a step towards creating Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for Metro Manila.

So if "OBRS is NOTHING like a BRT", then I suppose that the OBRS is NEVER a step towards a possible BRT? Or is there a contradiction somewhere?

I get your point that getting from point-to-point is not a matter of improving or managing traffic but rather innovating transit systems to become more efficient. But I don't think that simply dismissing programs because they only solve the symptom (i.e., traffic jams) and not getting at the underlying root of the problem (i.e., antiquated thinking--paradigms, if you will--about how people should be moved from place to place) is the right way to go about it.

Frankly, we Filipinos really suck at enforcing political will, but any effort to instill discipline (and not just in Subic) is still a step towards a solution. Meaning, if bus operators can be made to follow a system like the OBRS and see its benefits, then converting to a BRT system should be a cinch.

Urbano dela Cruz said...


sorry to go off on you. Bad coffee this morning.

You caught my old expectation. I "thought" the OBRS was a step towards BRT -but have not heard or seen anything since then to prove my expectation.

All i've read so far is about "traffic discipline." (MMUTRIP doesn't even hint at a BRT -much less a serious evaluation of transport mode shares.)

But see, your point about "solving the symptoms" is precisely the problem. We've made the wrong diagnosis (the problem is traffic) and so go about with the wrong solutions (traffic discipline, more roads).

Our car-riding blinders are so bad, we can't even think of air quality and the role private vehicles play in the equation!

As to political will, I have my doubts otherwise. Look at the cities I listed and in no way would you cite them as exemplars of "galvanized political will" - or of effective enforcement.

Politics is the art of making things possible -usually by bringing coalitions together who can see the benefits they will get if a policy is passed.

Our problem is -the welfare of the transit rider and commuter and the welfare of the pedestrian are not on any politician's agenda. It doesn't seem to be on the agenda of any NGO for that matter.

Heck, real urban issues (livability, mobility, future growth) aren't even on the agenda, unlike crime and traffic and trash.

My raison-d'etre for getting on this soapbox was precisely to get that agenda going.

But maybe I am expecting too much of a blog. (Ha! Let's not get into my existential rants.)

Anonymous said...

out of topic Urbano,do you have plans to introduce topics like better urban planning and BRT's to Mayor lim.if you need support,count me in.Or probably Mayor Belmonte? He'll probably have a more open minded demeanor about this topics.

Indio Bravo

Urbano dela Cruz said...

Indio Bravo,

I'd love to, if given the chance. Alas, I live half a world away from my beloved city.

(I may be back for a teaching visit next year so maybe then.)

Rather than talking to the mayors though, I'd really rather talk to civic groups, students and concerned citizens.

One clear thing I've learned in my work is that sustaining the work of changing cities cannot rest on the shoulders of elected officials or appointed staff. The most significant changes have occurred where citizen groups got involved and shepherded the process. (See this experience. and this more recent experience.)

So I'm hoping this blog and my endless evangelization for urban issues will someday bear fruit into citizen's advocacy groups.

Eugene said...

I also hope that your agenda will also be considered the same way we are now considering pollution, crime, education, and health services.

Unfortunately, there are far too few people who really know about urban planning. And the people who should know (the mayors, the MMDA) don't.

While starting this urban renewal agenda with a blog while sitting halfway around the world is a long shot, I think that it is still possible. I'll help spread the word by blogging about what you're talking about. I'm sure that the local Manila blogosphere will help eventually.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

thanks eugene.

I guess it's time to quote Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

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