Dear Trans Jakarta,
You are probably my favorite part of living in Jakarta. There I days when I truly wonder if I would have survived living in this city, if not for you.
I love your cool, air conditioned cars. After walking along the streets of Jakarta for mere minutes, sweat drips down my back and my face, soaking my shirt and putting streaks in whatever makeup I was foolish enough to try to wear. (What can I say? I am a northerner trying to live in a tropical climate: my body still isn’t sure what to do with this equatorial sun.) Stepping into a trans car is a blessed reprieve from the heat, and as soon as I naik (board), I feel my head clear and my skin give a soft sigh of relief.
I love how much of the city you have already reached. I know that I am lucky to have recently moved to Jakarta, because not long ago the bus corridors did not reach as many places, and the lack of connecting corridors made the travel time for many too long for them to feasibly use the Trans system. But as you continue to expand and more people are able to ride the system, it will make sustainable public transportation options truly feasible for more of Jakarta.
I love how cheap you are. For IDR 3.500, I can go from one end of the city to the other. Transportation in Jakarta does tend to be quite inexpensive, at least when compared to other capital cities around the world, but I the only options I have found that might be cheaper than the Trans are the rickety Kopaja buses overflowing with passengers that still pour back smoke into the air, and my feet. As someone who is paid by American standards, but whose friends are mostly Indonesians being paid Indonesian wages, this is especially important: while I arguably could take a taxi wherever I wanted to go, my friends cannot; but with the Trans system, we can all travel in comfort, together.
I love that you have spaces that are khusus wanita (special for women). Whether it is the front of regular buses, or the bright pink female-only buses with the massive lettering on their sides proclaiming “These Girls are Smart!,” I am so thankful that this spaces exist. I plan so many of my days around trying to avoid street harassment, and knowing that I can travel from one part of the city to another in the relative comfort and safety of female company is one of the reasons I feel able to explore all this city has to offer.
Jakarta is not my favorite city that I have ever lived in, but there are interesting elements of the city very much worth exploring. But the pollution, heat, and harassment of this city often make it hard for me to convince myself to leave the clean, cool, safe confines of my apartment. I have long conversations with myself, trying to persuade myself to leave. There have been days when the TransJakarta system is the piece of the puzzle that gets me out of the house, and I would have missed out on so much, if it did not exist.
Thank you, TransJakarta. There is little in this city that I will miss when I leave. But I will miss you.