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(8/28/2011) Launched in mid-August, the Sarbagita Mass Transit Bus System is proving itself to be a major disappointment to both the government and the public the system was meant to serve.
Intended to connect the southern, more populous regions of Bali, the initial 15 shiny new buses traveling from halt to halt are largely empty. Dreams that the bus system would be instantly popular, becoming an important first step among a range of transportation projects intended to reduce traffic are now fading fast.
So what went wrong with the well-intended mass transit dreams for the Sarbagita System?
The current state of the Sarbagita System suggests it is under the control of bureaucrats with little understanding and perhaps even less care for what constitutes a successful mass transit system.
The Sarbagita Mass Transit System is disappointing on a number of levels:
• The System was Late. The Jakarta-financed bus system was originally slated to start operations in 2009, only came on line almost two years later, commencing operations in August 2011.
• The Bus Halts are Poorly Planned. Underlining the lack of planning and clear thinking that misguides this project, new and costly bus halts have been hastily constructed directly on top of existing sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to now detour and walk in the traffic on some of Bali’s busiest roads.
• The Bus Halts are Poorly Placed. Land should have been acquired to create traffic bays large enough to accommodate sidewalks and platforms permitting the orderly embarkation and disembarkation of passengers. However, with only one or two notable exceptions, the bus halts are poorly positioned with bus stops - when being used by a bus - closing an entire lane of the roadway, often only a short distance from busy traffic intersections.
• The Bus Halt are Not Handicap Friendly. Well-planned mass transit systems have the potential of immeasurably enhancing the life of the handicapped by opening access to education, entertainment and employment opportunities. However, the new Bali bus halts, jammed on top of sidewalks and using a minimum of space, are inaccessible to wheelchair bound passengers. In this regard, the provincial government has launched a bus system that ignores Law No. 4 of 1997 (Section 4) guaranteeing accessibility to public transport for disabled citizens.
• The Bus System Apparently Has No Marketing Plan. The Bali Sarbagita Bus System operates on the misassumption that if the government builds a mass transit system the public will automatically flock to it in great numbers. There has been little public marketing to guarantee the bus system's success. Bus halts are devoid of branding, schedules and route maps. Hotels and public places have no route maps or information to share with workers, local residents and visiting tourists. Bus stops even lack signage advising passengers the name of the halt. And, perhaps most damning, the Sarbagita Bus System may be have the dubious distinction of being one of the few bus systems in operating anywhere in the world today without its own website.
• The Bus System Has Done Little to Meet the Needs of the Community. Has the bus system undertaken public education using the press, hotel trade unions and local schools to publicize operating details and the advantages of travel by bus? In planning the new system, was consideration ever given to building secure parking lots that would permits a hotel worker in Nusa Dua to store their motorcycle in, say, Sanur or Batubulan, while riding the bus to and from their place of employment? Where are the published rules on how to use the new system? Is this information published on the non-existent website? Are there discounts for senior citizens? For that matter, Is information avaiable anywhere in both Indonesian and English making the system "user-friendly" to Bali’s many tourist visitors? Unfortunately, these question are rhetorical and as far as we can tell universally answerable in the negative.
• Managements Execution to Date Looks Amateurish. Sadly, despite having two years to prepare, the Sarabagita Mass Transit System remains a relatively slipshod operation. Fares are posted on pieces of paper haphhazardly stuck in bus windows with cellophane tape. Meanwhile, passengers are often prevented from disembarking or boarding at their bus halt by cars and other vehicles parked in front of the halts.
Are we being too harsh on Bali's new bus system? Share your experiences on using the Sarbagita Bus System with our readers [email on Sarbagita Bus System}