Thursday, June 15, 2006
The sign says there's a monorail being built here. It even looks like there's a monorail being built here. But whether there will ever be a monorail is still an open question.
The monorail project has been through a dizzying series of ups and downs - contracted out to one company, contract broken and bidding re-opened, re-contracted, re-broken, internal disputes declared, lawsuits threatened, etc. etc. Some of this has to do with disagreements over things like financing and technology - they've even flirted with a magnetic levitation system, which seems a little fancier and way more expensive than necessary. Some of it may have to do with highly-placed people wanting their "fair" share of the take. It's hard to tell from what you read in the papers. Furthermore, some analysts have questioned whether a monorail, if it's ever finished, can compete with the city's vast fleet of less-expensive buses and minivans.
For now, at least, the project is going forward with more traditional technology, and the government says it's about to nail down the financial arrangements. That puts the monorail in a better position than the proposed subway, which recently suffered a fate worse than death - it was assigned to a fifteen-member public-private consortium. If fifteen state and private bodies anywhere in the world can agree on what to order for lunch, it's a miracle.
Every time I walk by the project I say a little prayer that it will really happen. Right now, ironically, its main role in my life is to make my walk to work more difficult. They've closed the sidewalk in the construction zone, and they didn't bother to provide any alternatives because "nobody walks in Jakarta" - so I have to walk out along the orange cones, on the edge of the traffic. But it will all be worth it if I can someday float above the macet (traffic jams) in a nice, fast monorail.