the unused public facilities

Posted: Thursday, January 7, 2010 | Posted by Albertus Prawata | Labels: ,

The other day, I had an appointment with a friend of mine to watch a movie at one of the malls situated in the Thamrin area. I took a bus to go there, and I found it was a pleasant trip from the point of view that I did not need to drive through the Jakarta’s heavy traffic on a Friday evening. The bus, however, was not in a good condition at all.

The transportation problem in Jakarta has hit a critical point. In the morning and in the evening, before and after office hours, the roads in Jakarta are always extremely crowded, and traffic jam has become part of the usual routines of the people in Jakarta. Traffic jam is inevitable, and it is simply because the number of roads is of no comparison than the number of vehicles, such as buses, cars, and motorcycles.

The problem of traffic jam in Jakarta is not a new issue. Everyone knows that this is a serious problem that needs to be solved. How? The answers to the question could vary, but if I may suggest, Jakarta does need a proper Mass Rapid Transportation system. The government has already tried to solve the problem by providing the Trans Jakarta buses. We also know that the government has already started the monorail program, but up to now, we do not see how the program would serve the people of Jakarta. It definitely has got to do with political and bureaucracy issues, but I’m not fond to discuss it here.

During the trip, I passed one of the corridors (routes) of Trans Jakarta, the one that is situated on Gatot Subroto Street. I saw the unused bus stops that have been built for quite a while, but until now they don’t even operate. I thought: why did they build them if they don’t even use them? They used glass and steel for the materials on the bus stop. The materials and the rectangular shape certainly give a futuristic and modern look. Although there are some better executions that could be made on the designs, but it certainly offers a new image for the transportation system, especially in Jakarta. But it all comes off waste; the unused spaces become junk spaces, and it all comes down to the waste of money and also the waste of opportunities.

The opportunities for a better use of the design for the people of Jakarta have been ruined. The bus stops are getting worse and worse every day. No one is using them, and there is no maintenance. They even haven’t been used, and I’m sure some of them need to be repaired. The chaotic environment caused by the Jakarta’s traffic has made the public crave for a better solution for the transportation system. To have the bus stops only as a display on the streets is not right. The government should have planned the construction carefully, and put on the effort of the good design intentions to somewhat more useful for the public.

Maybe it’s just me being cynical, but we do need more public spaces, public facilities that are not only for the eyes to see. It’s time for an action that we use architecture and planning to reach out to the public, so not only people in their BMW and Mercedes Benz can enjoy. If only the unused bus stops could have been transformed into integrated public facilities such as pedestrian walks and bicycle routes, it would definitely have given enormous quality to our society and city.

I’m still sitting in the bus when my rambling thoughts went wild searching for better solutions, better designs that could be used by the public, and only to be awaken by the horn of a nearby car that passed by. For some reason, I could not answer or choose not to answer; why should we spend so much money on something that the public can’t use? While there are other issues too, which are much more important to be solved using a better design and planning, such as flood problems during rainy season, or how to create better public spaces for public markets and others. In my opinion, there’s one basic standard question that everyone who’s involved in the design process should answer before they execute a big project like the public facilities. It involves a lot of aspects need to be considered, and if we can’t answer or find the solution for the basic question such as, how does the public use the facilities? And then, why do we bother to continue the process, because it’s not going to work properly anyway.

Just like my first year students asked about their excitement using the computer for their designs, and I simply answered; before we walk, we crawl first. A good result, and in this case a good design for the public is not easy to achieve. A lot of factors are involved, and we might not get the full potential or even failed on the designs; just like when we learn to walk, we might fall. Therefore, the design process should go through every detailed consideration and selection that we could apply so the potentials and intentions of the design could be achieved.

A big banner on one of the main streets that I just passed by on my ride says, Indonesia is going to host the 2022 World Cup. Yes, I do know some of your thoughts about this ambition; they are probably the same as mine. But the optimistic me says, yes, we do have some time, to prepare and not to fall into the same mistakes. Let’s try to crawl first before we run, in order to achieve our dreams and ambitions. And what’s more, let’s create a better place, a better city, and a better society.