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Traffic Continues While Waiting for The Bali Train That Could

Traffic Continues While Waiting for The Bali Train That Could

Our little island has traffic problems for quite sometimes now, and I’m not talking about the kind of traffic that happens due to ceremonies or road constructions. That is not at all part of the problem here. I’m talking about the daily traffic in busy areas – practically everywhere these days – during rush hours. First, let’s define what rush hours means when you are in Bali:

It is not the mere 8am and 5pm when people are leaving to and from work. No.

It could be Monday night and Sunset Road through Legian street will be packed. It could be a sweet Wednesday afternoon and everyone is heading to every beach on the island causing traffic to be quite chaotic. The traffic jam could happen any time, anywhere, any day. Whether you live down south or up north, this applies to all of us road users.

From not obeying rules, unclear speed limits, to the ratio between the numbers of vehicles to the size of the streets, all accumulated into a giant heap of traffic problems on the rise. Some of these things might cross your mind while you roam the streets in Bali:

“People are driving without signal”
“So many crazy drivers out there!”
“No one obey the rules. Look at that guy running through the red light!”
“Hey those people are driving on the other side of the lane to get ahead, let’s follow them and create more traffic”!
“There are too many cars in Bali”
“There too many motorcycles in Bali”

Which all lead to the giant pink elephant on the road: A good public transportation systemboth affordable and accessible by all.

What has the authorities’ response so far? Well, let’s see, there is Sarbagita, and Bemo–  a smaller version of minibus – serving as public transportation for now. They have bus stops throughout the Sarbagita routes, and you need to buy tickets costing Rp. 3,500 per passenger. It is quite a low price to pay considering the alternatives.

However, the routes and schedules of Sarbagita Buses can be confusing:

As of Bemo, you can find them from time to time but you still need to ask where they are going because the routes aren’t posted on the front of the Bemo either. A real challenge, especially if you are a foreigner who doesn’t speak Bahasa Indonesia. Seeing that these two public transportation solutions haven’t been working as well as expected, talks of creating a special railway train network in touristicareas have been in the air for quite some time now. There are many pros and cons in regards to this idea, but whether or not the plan goes, Bali definitely is in dire need of a viable and solid solution in terms of public transportation for the people. It seems the focus is only to establish public transportation to serve tourism, and not so much for the daily need of the locals’ everyday commutes going to and from work daily.

The train proposed would serve as an alternative transportation option for tourists. According to Director of Traffic and Transportation Directorate of Railways, HanggoroBudiWiryawan, to this day, the center government is still waiting for the memorandum of understanding of the Bali Provincial Government to follow the construction of the railway sightseeing tour of Bali.

Could this proposed Railway Sight Seeing Train decrease the amount of traffic congestion in tourism area? Would it be the answer to the current problems the Department of Transportation is facing now? Or will it back fire and cause even more traffic? It all depends on where the railways and train stops would be located.

First of all, people will still need to commute to where the train stations are, and then the traffic will have to stop wherever trains pass. This could actually cause more congestion. Unless they  create a subway of some sort.

The main problem here is, Bali is such a small island that a train going around the main tourism area and the city is not exactly a very good solution considering the amount of personal vehicles are already going around. It doesn’t mean that it’s not doable. Hong Kong is much smaller compared to Bali, and they did it. They have a monorail that really serves the needs of the public commutes. It is the main transportation used by the people and the train stops are accessible within walking distance from most residential areas that the need of personal vehicles is simply diminished. If Bali implements the same concept then it could really put traffic jam in a history we would all one day tell our children about.

So many political and economical issues are coming into play when talking about massive effort in eliminating the use of personal vehicles.

Automobile investors will not like this idea because this means drops in sales. Look around you. There are countless car and motorcycle dealers all around the island, not to mention car and motorcycle rental shops. These businesses will hit the rock and drown faster than the train would take you from Kuta to Tanah Lot. People working in these fields will be losing jobs.

The vague proposal of this Railway Sight Seeing Train is most likely the main reason why it continues to stay in the air the past few years. The way I see it, budget is not the problem here. The real problem is, just like Sarbagita, this Train has yet to show how it would benefit the public, increase tourism, and solve traffic problem. What Bali Government need to focus right now is not increasing services for the tourism alone, but also start looking into solutions for residents. Now would be a good time to start. Then maybe, just maybe, with a more solid plan, a monorail could be an answer.

For the time being, if you are keen to use the available public transportation, Sarbagita Bus, you can visit this site for the routes and schedules .



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February, 2018
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