Sunday, February 25, 2024 | 06:36 WIB

The people of Maluku deserve comfortable public transportation

Jakarta, IO – People who reside on Java are privileged to enjoy the convenience of public transportation, which is not the case for those living in Maluku Province. Public transportation in this province is far from decent, let alone comfortable. With the operation of Jakarta-Bandung WHOOSH high-speed rail, the gap between public transportation services on the main island and the regions has become more overwhelming. 

Although Maluku Province is an archipelagic region, it has the longest pioneering bus network in Indonesia. The Ambon-Masiwang-Totok Tolu route stretches some 593 km and can be covered in roughly 33 hours. Pioneering bus services in Maluku Province have considerably improved the local economy, passenger mobility and movement of goods. 

In Maluku Province, 17 pioneering bus routes operate across five islands: Ambon, Seram, Buru, Tanimbar and Kei. The road network covers 2,869 km, with the AmbonMasiwang-Totok Tolu route of 593 km being the longest pioneering bus route in the country. 

However, subpar road conditions often drag out travel times. Data from state-owned bus operator DAMRI in 2021 shows 304 km or 10.5% of roads crossed by the pioneering buses in Maluku are damaged. 

Buru Island is served by five bus routes: Namlea-Namrole (136 km), Namlea-Masarete (94 km), NamleaTeluk Bara (134 km), Namlea-Lala (10 km) and Namlea-Savana Jaya (25 km). 

Meanwhile, Ambon Island and Seram Island are connected by six pioneering bus routes, which use ferry boats connecting Hunimua Ferry Port (Central Maluku Regency, Ambon Island) and Waipirit Ferry Port (Central Maluku Regency, Seram Island). With six operational ferry boats, these ports have high crossing traffic, starting from 5:30 AM WIT (Central Indonesia Time) and lasting until to 9:00 PM WIT. The two ports are managed by state-owned passenger ferry operator ASDP Ferry. 

Pioneering buses departing from Ambon cover six routes: AmbonMasiwang-Totok Tolu (593 km – the longest route), Ambon-Alune (215 km), Ambon-Warasiwa (250 km), Ambon-Laimu (330 km), AmbonSaka-Pasanea (215 km) and AmbonNamto (387 km). The fleet consists of 12 medium-size operational buses, serving the six routes at 8:00 AM every day. Due to the small number of buses, some of the farthest routes are only served three times a week from the pool in Ambon City. 

Passengers usually start arriving at DAMRI Pool in Ambon City at 7:00 AM. At certain periods, some passengers even stay overnight at the DAMRI Ambon Office to save money on accommodation. For the long route from Ambon City to Seram Island, drivers and bus crew can rest and sleep at the houses of the locals – for free. 

As for Tanimbar Island (Tanimbar Islands Regency), the pioneering bus transportation services offer five routes, with six buses. The routes include Saumlaki-Batu Putih (51 km), Saumlaki-Latdalam (38 km), Saumlaki-Larat (145 km) and Saumlaki-Arma-Watmuri (112 km). Yet, the fleet is desperately lacking; at least six more buses should be added to meet the demand. 

On Kei Island (Southeast Maluku Regency), only one pioneering bus is in operation, serving the Langgur Sathen-Danar-Madwaer-Tetoad route, one that stretches 80 km. 

Poor bus conditions 

The current fleet, unfortunately, only operates outdated buses; the latest dates from 2016. Some are even older, produced in 2012. The old buses operating in Maluku Province must be replaced with new units, and the old ones still running can be used as logistics transportation. 

Logistics transportation connecting Ambon Island with Seram Island seems to have a prospect of high traffic. Two to three rows of seats in the pioneering buses are often used to store passengers’ belongings, reducing passenger capacity, as the seats are used for stacking all sorts of items. 

In the future, the items passengers can carry onto the bus must be limited; for example, no more than one suitcase and several articles can be carried by hand. No air conditioner should be installed on the bus as it is often damaged by tree branches. The air conditioner can only be installed if the tree limbs grazing the top of the bus are cut regularly. 

The poor condition of the existing fleet in Maluku Province urgently calls for revitalization, or else it will be too much to continue operating those units of buses. Also, the road network in the province is severely lacking compared to road networks on Java, as the roads are marred by many cracks and potholes. 

Damaged roads in the province have become a perpetual issue, neglected without any attempt at repair. Not only does this condition unnecessarily increase travel times, but it also causes damage to vehicles. The repair of such roads should be included in the regional road construction program. It should be admitted that the Government has not paid adequate attention to infrastructure development in island regions, particularly in Indonesia’s east. 

In summary, several measures must be taken to improve public transportation in Maluku. First, the fleet must be revitalized – reinvigorate it with new buses. Do not install air conditioners, just like public transport in Jakarta. Next, the service must be up to standard and the service time exceptional. 

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Passenger items that can go onto the vehicle must be limited, and any excess baggage will incur additional fees. The old buses may still be operated for transporting goods, which can stream extra revenue to DAMRI in Maluku. 

Increasing the budget 

Provinces with abundant natural resources generate income for the state. Therefore, the state must at least attend to the transportation needs in those regions. To improve land transportation, the number of pioneering buses on the islands must be increased. Regional governments that receive revenue-sharing funds should allocate a portion of the local government budget (APBD) to accommodate the mobility of their residents using public transportation. Article 25 of Government Regulation 35/2023 about the general provisions of tax and levy states that at least 10% must be used for road construction and/or maintenance and the improvement of public transportation and its facilities. 

The time has come to attend to pioneering bus services in the frontier, outermost, underdeveloped and border areas (3TP) to minimize the gap with other regions. The pioneering bus services must have an extended and superior network. The operational budget must also be increased. The pioneering bus operation in Maluku Province in 2023 only received budget assistance of IDR 8,248,631,780 out of IDR 177.42 billion (327 routes) allocated for all pioneering bus operations across the nation. It is just chump change compared to the public service operation (PSO) of Jabodetabek (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi) Commuter Line that reaches IDR 1.6 trillion.




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