The thin wall separating our rooms in the wisma don’t have echoes of Elizabeth and Tiwi’s voices or computers blaring in the background. Amanda’s bed is empty beside me – it drives home the fact that I am the last person to leave Indonesia on our last day. As I walked our familiar haunts and paths around Sanata Dharma University one last time, I reflected on some of the summer’s achievements, highs, and lows.
We’d finished what we came for: our research projects were presented two days earlier to our NGOs and host institution of PUSDEP. For Jessica and I, researching on public transportation in connection with air pollution in Yogyakarta was fun and frustrating at times. Like interns before me, I’ll give a background to what we did:
In Yogyakarta’s case, seventy percent of the air pollution is produced by the transportation sector of energy users – private cars, taxis, buses trucks, motorbikes (refer to Figure 2) from a report of the Badan Lingkungan Hidup (BLH), the government’s environmental department. This means that transportation is a particularly important contributor to emissions. For example, in the city of Yogyakarta, “[a]ccording to ICLEI [Local Governments for Sustainability] Report 2004, the CO2 emission contributed by transportation sector per capita/year to the city reaches 0,6 ton. It signifies that each people annually contributes 0.6 ton of CO2 from transportation sector. This figure is equal to Surabaya, which is 10 times larger than Yogyakarta. Other air parameters, such as PM10 and Pb, also show dangerous impacts on people’s health. Referring to research undertaken by PUSTRAL (2004) [Center for Transportation and Logistics Studies in the Universitas Gadjah Mada], people’s health cost due to poor environment[al] condition of the city is Rp 466.71 billion or equal to about 9% of PDRB (Gross Regional Domestic Income).” [Can a public bus system be the solution for this?]
Trans Jogja (the public bus system) is managed by PT Jogja Tugu Trans as a manifestation of consortium of four cooperative of managing city and rural public transport in Yogyakarta such as Cooperative of Youth Sleman, Kopata, Aspada, and Puskopkar with Perum DAMRI. For Trans Jogja, a total of 54 buses comprise the system. Routes 1 to 3 utilize an agreed 49 buses of the current fleet. An additional 20 buses have recently been acquired by DISHUB as part of an additional grant from the Ministry of Transport. All buses are high-floor, and have a carrying capacity of 41 passengers (including 22 seated). Each ride costs 3000 IDR, which is approximately $.30; discounts with a regular card are 2.700 IDR ($.27) and 2000 IDR ($.20). There are various options for recharging the cards at specific ticket locations (Point of Sales offices). Motorbikes, on the other hand, cost between 10 – 20 million IDR on average, costs of gas is about 10 thousand IDR, without including maintenance costs.
We decided to travel the Trans Jogja bus system ourselves to understand its benefits and issues. Coming inside the bus is difficult – the bus stops in front of the elevated shelter, where the passengers have to step off of the bus. This makes it difficult for older and/or disabled passengers, in addition to making it tricky to navigate. The bus itself is comfortable and nice inside, though we could see how in peak hours, there could be a struggle to find a good spot to even stand. The bus door seems like it could open at any moment since there’s just a hook on the top that the conductor uses to secure the door. However, the biggest issue is that even traveling in the afternoons, without much traffic, and in one of the less busy routes, it still took us about an hour to arrive at our destination versus the possible 15-20 minute motorbike ride. We decided to forego our original survey plan since we discovered this is reflected on more formal research.
On SUTIP’s survey, public perception about Trans Jogja is diverse from the point of views. There is poor public perception for the issues of accessibility (convenience of stops) and directness route. Conversely, there is a superior public perception about the issues of speed and comfort (relative to city bus), though it still does not compare to other modes of transportation. In terms of the shelters, there is a widespread perception that they are too small to cope with demand during busy periods. Despite the cheaper alternative of the bus system, lost time and inefficiency are costly to most of the motorbike and car users, which makes it an unlikely mode choice for most people. Therefore, this is not highly effective at its current state.
My partner and I gave a series of recommendations for WALHI to follow based on our paper research – though it was mainly the need for further research. One of the more challenging aspects of the second part of our internship was how to pick a topic and research question that would be useful for our NGO and rewarding for us that is doable with limited time and resources. Everybody was able to pull this off well. Amanda and Tiwi gave their NGO recommendations on possible programs for their kids. Alex and Laksmi conducted a survey to find out the best way (social media) to reach their client base. Colin and Raisa presented about the situation of religious minorities in two high schools in Jogja. Jacob and Brito talked about the mining situation and water allocation of two villages on the slopes of the active volcano Merapi. Lastly, Elizabeth showed a short film of the Tionghoa in Indonesia, and how they culture has been preserved in current times.
The work done behind the scenes would not have been possible without the bonds we formed with out research partners. Throughout the summer, we were faced with inconveniences and pleasant surprises in relation to our researches and in our lives in Indonesia. We helped each other and shared these together – our work merged and emerged into better collaborations. I also speak especially of my partner Jessica and I – we had our ups and downs, but at the end, we understood each other better. How working in groups in the BiCo turns out really depends on the class, but it’s still a very different experience from this internship in Indonesia. I’m very grateful to have had this chance. With our partners, our BiCo family I was also very supportive – we’ve all dealt with issues of race, gender, and other cultural and social assumptions together. Yesterday, when we had our last dinner at Milas together, there were tears. I don’t know whether I’m ready to leave Indonesia behind forever, but the community we’d had will stay with me. I can’t thank our partners enough, the coordinators of our program, our NGOs, our language and institute teachers, our interviewees, my homestay family, even the random people in the street who stopped to help us!