Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Valuing the SHIA airport rail link

(an article, published by the Jakarta Post, 21 January 2012)

Jakarta urgently needs to improve its public transportation facilities to avoid predicted total gridlock in 2014. Improvements are currently focused on the construction of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), the continuation of the Monorail project and development of the Bus Rapid Transit (Transjakarta).

For an easier journey to the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (SHIA), the provincial government has announced a plan to build an Airport Rail Link (ARL) between the airport in Tangerang and Manggarai station in South Jakarta.

How do travelers feel about the journey to the airport and how much would they value this new system?

Because people have varying opinions on traveling, studying travel behavior can provide important information that can be used when considering public transportation policies.

A survey that involved 500 respondents discovered that reliability (40.00 percent) would be the most important factor in determining whether they would use the ARL, followed by other factors such as comfort (23.60 percent), travel time (21.00 percent), fare (7.80 percent) and safety (7.60 percent). Most of the respondents (42.80 percent) said the most reliable journey, according to them, is by train.

The study also found that travelers were willing to pay between Rp 38,000 (US$3.95) and Rp 52,000 to save an hour from the journey time to the airport.

They placed a high value on a trip to the airport, which may relate to the risk of missing a flight. If a passenger arrives at the airport late, they might not only miss a flight, but they may also be burdened to purchase a new ticket. As a result, they usually leave for the airport several hours before their departure time in anticipation of an extended journey due to traffic congestion.

The travelers are also willing to pay between Rp 54,000 and Rp 90,000 to save an hour in waiting time for the public transport service. The public transportation service must strategize how they can maintain its punctuality, service frequency, provide a reliable schedule and publish the schedule so travelers can plan their travel times effectively.

Furthermore, the study also indicates that people have a predisposition to the ARL service as it is expected to provide a more reliable, safer and convenient service. They are willing to pay Rp 20,000 more for the ARL service than other modes of public transportation.

The high value of time is beneficial in terms of project investment appraisal, as if the value of time is higher, the benefit of improving the transport system regarding the journey is bigger. The ARL operator can set a high fare, resulting in a higher rate of return or benefit per cost ratio for the investment.

If the ARL operator sets the level of service 45 minutes of in-vehicle time, 30 minutes of waiting time and Rp 60,000 for the fare, the probability result of mode sharing shows that the majority of respondents will use the ARL train service (40.99 percent), followed by the other modes: bus (30.90 percent), car (16.52 percent) and taxi (11.59 percent). As much as 38 percent of bus passengers, 57 percent of taxi users and 12 percent of private car users are also willing to shift to the ARL service.

According to the respondents, private vehicles are considered safer and more comfortable than public transportation, making the shift from car to public transportation considerably low and will thus contribute to the predicted gridlock in the city. However, some strategies should be considered to discourage private vehicle use, for instance by increasing vehicle operating costs, mainly based on fuel prices, parking fees or toll fees.

In summary, understanding individual travel behavior and preference is important to determine suitable policies and strategies for public transportation operation as well for transportation-related
project evaluation.

The writer is pursuing a masters of transport system and engineering (MSTT) degree at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta under the Beasiswa Unggulan scholarship from the Education and Culture Ministry.