Bali transportation systems: Grappling with life in the 21st Century

Bali is a small island with a rapidly growing population. Actually there are over 3 million people in Bali, giving the island a population density of around 550 per sq km. In areas such as Kuta / Seminyak who knows what the population density is. Local transport systems (we’re talking about cars, motorbikes, taxis, bemo buses etc.) are not a long term solution to Bali’s transport needs, especially in built up areas. The last century has given us many great ideas for public transportation, such as the BART in San Francisco, carrying people under the Bay and on surface streets, to their destination. With all these great ideas to consider, getting any of them implemented in Bali will be tough.

Here’s an article from Bali Discovery, highlighting some of the roadblocks to a new mass transit system in Bali.

Keeping Bali’s Vehicles on the Level
Government Officials Explain Why Overpasses, Suspended Highways and Monorails Won’t Work in Bali.

Bali News: Keeping Bali’s Vehicles on the Level
(10/21/2007) The Deputy Coordinating Economic Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Dr. Ir. Bambang Susantono, told a national conference on transportation meeting in Bali on October 18, 2007, that building overpasses and elevated roadways in Bali was not a viable means of overcoming traffic congestion problems on the island. Susantono, who is also the Chairman of the Indonesian Transportation Community (TPI), told the meeting that social and cultural beliefs held by the majority of Bali’s residents make overpasses an inappropriate means of addressing traffic issues.

Saying he did not agree with building overpasses in Bali, Susantono told the Bali Post said a more practical solution would be to upgrade the present road system and build underpasses, rather than building elevated roadways which unacceptably pass over and above the heads of the local Bali-Hindu populations, their communities and places of worship.

No Easy Solutions

Susantono warned his audience that there are no road-building solutions that will satisfactorily resolve Bali’s growing traffic problems. To do this, he insisted, Bali must build a mass transit system that is safe, comfortable, affordable, and operates on a fixed and convenient schedule.

Such a mass transit system would have to be constructed so it could serve both local residents and tourist visitors to Bali.

Speaking to the conference, Susantono explained that he does not accept the popular perception that mass transit is incompatible with Balinese society, insisting a well-planned and affordable public transport system would earn the patronage of the people of Bali.

At the same conference in Kuta, Indonesia’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik echoed Susantono’s sentiments saying that better roads are needed in Bali while discounting the appropriateness of suspended highways and monorail systems for the Island of Bali.

My own inclination is to say the Balinese could all help the road system out by taking a driving test, and I’m not being sarcastic. Another relevant point is the road quality. New roads in Bali often appear as if they could flake apart, due to poor materials used. The heavy traffic, frantic driving styles of many locals and potholed, cracked roads compounds the already over loaded road system.

Balinese insistence that no over passes are built (which by extension means no elevated mass transit system) is going to make life very difficult for them in the future. There is only so much space and when the ground is packed, you have to go up.

Anther transport article in Bali Discovery talks about the possibility of a new international airport in Jembrana, West Bali. The area south of Negara has a plain of flat land extending to the ocean. This does in one sense make an ideal place for an airport, but there are factors against. Jembrana is over 3 hours from Kuta. Who wants a 3 hour drive after a 12 hour flight? The project will be extremely expensive and will require a new toll road from West Bali to Denpasar / Kuta. Who knows how much land will have to be torn up for that.

My suggestion: Hire Dutch dredgers, just like they do in Hong Kong, to reclaim the land on the eastern side of the runway in Tuban (routing traffic underneath it) extending the present runway. The reclaimed land could also be used for a larger arrivals / departure facility. Way less trouble and way cheaper.