Water taxis won’t solve Bali’s traffic: Experts

The proposal comes after tourists experienced severe congestion over the Christmas and New Year holidays, causing some of them to miss their flights.

Yohana Belinda

Yohana Belinda

The Jakarta Post


File photo of Bali on a sunny day. PHOTO: UNSPLASH

January 19, 2024

JAKARTA – Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno has suggested that the Bali administration consider a water taxi service to alleviate traffic congestion, but experts say the idea is infeasible.

The proposal comes after tourists experienced severe congestion over the Christmas and New Year holidays, causing some of them to miss their flights.

The minister said the water taxi would connect a number of tourist districts in Badung regency, such as Canggu, North Kuta, Kuta, Jimbaran and South Kuta.

“We suggested water-based transportation, so that the [popular tourist spots of] Canggu, Jimbaran and Kuta can be connected through water taxis,” Sandiaga said on Thursday, as reported by Kumparan.

University of Indonesia transportation analyst Sutanto Soehodho argued that numerous navigable rivers would need to be available to support a water taxi service.

“Water-based taxis are feasible in several countries, including Switzerland, due to navigable rivers. What’s most important is that rivers not dry up during the dry season, which I don’t see in Bali,” Sutanto said.

“When I went to Bali, including in the areas of Denpasar and Seminyak, I didn’t see enough navigable rivers for a water-based [taxi service],” he added.

Sutanto explained that several of Bali’s rivers were unsuitable because they lacked the depth to accommodate transportation and added that most tourists would in any case prefer overland alternatives for day-to-day transportation to tourist destinations.

University of Lampung (Unila) urban transportation analyst Aleksander Purba told to The Jakarta Post on Friday that Indonesia had limited experience with water-based transportation.

He said Jakarta had a water-based bus service around Pluit and Pantai Mutiara, which he believed had failed.

Aside from that, most tourist attractions in Bali were only accessible by land, meaning overland public transportation needed improving to reduce traffic congestion. This could be accomplished either through railways or buses, with the latter considered a faster and more affordable solution.

Aleksander lamented a lack of public interest when Bali authorities had urged people to use the Transserbagita public transportation system  in the past. This was because it was not priced properly and not easily accessible to the public.

“Bali has tried to solve the traffic congestion through Transserbagita, which was initiated by the Transportation Ministry. However, road-based transportation isn’t very reliable. Public transportation must be accessible, and the price should be more affordable,” he said.

On Nov. 14, 2023, Indonesia Transportation Society (MTI) spokesperson I Made Rai Ridharta noted that Bali still lacked a comprehensive public transportation network as services were patchy in some areas and slow in others.

He noted that it took 20 minutes or more to reach the nearest bus stop in many areas of Bali and an additional 40 minutes to get from the bus stop to the final destinations at tourist attractions, so many people avoided public transportation. Only some 30 percent of people in Bali regularly used public transportation, Detik reported in November of last year.

Both experts said improving rail transportation would be a viable way to alleviate traffic congestion on the popular holiday island but noted that current plans for road-based public transportation in Bali should not be dismissed either, given their lower construction cost.

Aleksander emphasized the need to consider various funding sources, including loans, the state budget and other available resources, to finance construction projects.

“Studies of routes, whether on the ground or elevated, involve a significant amount of time and expertise. This isn’t a problem because LRT and monorail are already common in other cities,” Aleksander explained.

As a quick fix to Bali’s congestion, Sutanto proposed an odd-even license plate policy akin to the one enforced in Jakarta. In the future, the Bali government may curb motorbike access to certain areas and rely on public rather than private transportation for areas with intense traffic, he suggested.

Sandiaga stressed the need to pay more attention to issue of traffic in Bali, arguing that tackling congestion was crucial to support the tourist industry on the island. Currently, to alleviate traffic congestion in Bali, the police tended to reroute traffic around the airport.

“I hope road users can be more patient while we are preparing more rail-based transportation,” he said.

Moreover, Sandiaga said the Ministry of Tourism and the Creative Economy was working on various ways to support tourism in Bali in 2024, including by adding more flights to Bali from the United States, Europe and Asia and by imposing a $10 tourist e-tax staring on Feb. 14, with the proceeds to go toward cultural preservation.

Furthermore, the ministry is planning to develop tourist areas in the Northern, Western and Eastern regions of Bali to distribute tourism more evenly across the island.

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