Photo essay: Getting around by public transport in Indonesia’s sprawling, congested Bandung
Bandung is the capital of Indonesia‘s West Java province, a 2.5-million inhabitant city at 768m elevation, surrounded by volcanoes, tea plantations, colonial modernist architecture, and flora and fauna aplenty. The city’s sprawling metropolitan area is home to 8.6 million people, making it Indonesia’s second-largest urban area after Jakarta.
Because of the city’s beauty (the Dutch named it “Parijs van Java” — the Paris of Java) and cooler climes, Bandung attracts a great many tourists — but is an important technology hub too, with the Bandung Institute of Technology’s (ITB) young students dominating the city’s population.
Getting around Bandung
Most people in Bandung use private vehicles to get around (62% on motorcycles and 15% in cars), and only one in five journeys are taken by public transport. Most of these are on angkot minibuses, which are privately operated. Just 3% of journeys are taken by bus. Other transport modes include older Damri buses, newer Trans Metro Bandung (TMB) and Trans Metro Pasundan (TMP) buses, the local train, and other informal minibuses. Since 2015, ride-hailing has become popular too.
The popularity of private vehicle use is a challenge for Bandung. It’s one of the most congested transport networks in Southeast Asia. One survey registered an average traffic speed of just 11.8 km/h, the pace of a reasonably fit runner. While economic activities — things like street vendors and marketplaces, and the informal management of the angkot system play their role, the sheer number of private motorcycles and cars on the road is a key cause of congestion.
It’s very common for angkot drivers to take diversions or shortcuts — or to not drive to the end of the route, particularly after 5pm. Bandung has high levels of traffic congestion, and this worsens at the weekends when people arrive from Jakarta, and over public holidays. The weather plays a role too — Bandung’s tropical monsoon climate makes for heavy rainfall from January through to March. When the Citarum River overflows and other parts of the city flood, travel becomes more challenging.
What modes of transport are available?
Angkots are cheap, convenient, and run frequently. They cost max. IDR 10,000 (GBP 0.56, USD 0.66) for passengers travelling to the end of the route, although there are no official fares. They offer comfort, particularly if it’s raining or for students without access to their own vehicles. For people travelling with their children, they are a more convenient and comfortable choice: parents aren’t separated from their children when travelling as with motorcycle taxis.
TMB and TMP are bigger buses. TMB buses are regulated by the city government, while Greater Bandung regulates TMP. There’s a flat fare of IDR 3,000 to travel on these buses, with concessions for students, teachers, labourers, and army veterans. They are bigger than angkots, and they’re not as full, and for longer journeys they are more convenient than the angkot. Alas, coverage is not as wide as with the angkots.
Grab and Gojek are two of the relatively new ride-hailing services used to get around the city quickly. They’re preferable to regular motorcycle taxis as they’re safer — and they offer fixed rates — but they’re more of an option for those with money to spare. They’re now three to four times more expensive than the angkot — the shortest route costs IDR 11,000 (compared to IDR 3,000 for an angkot going a similar distance).
For transport to and from Bandung, there are several intercity options. Travelling to and from Jakarta is a three-hour trip, and there are a range of intercity shuttle companies and trains. The Bandung Jakarta intercity train is a very popular transport mode, with fares selling out online and prices ever rising. An executive class ticket costs IDR 125,000. Cirebon, the port city on the northern coast of Java, is reachable by train, bus, or intercity shuttle, taking around three to four hours, and the same goes for the city of Tasikmalaya in the south.
How do passengers in Bandung choose how to travel?
Most passengers in Bandung use just one kind of public transport to get from A to B. This means if you’re using an angkot, you might change to get on another angkot along the way. In Jakarta, travel is different — it’s far more common to take different types of transport, and ride-hailing can be used as a complement. Walking isn’t particularly popular, with most people preferring transport to walking, despite the cool air. People are willing to walk up to 200 metres — around a ten-minute walk.
Safety can be an issue too. Generally, Bandung is pretty safe, but there have been several reports of criminal activity, more in the suburbs than in the centre. Participants in our ethnographic research in Bandung shared their experience of being hypnotised in an angkot, a crime that is commonly reported in Indonesia. In general, women are more wary of public transport in Bandung — and they are generally more reliant on public transport than men, who are often given motorbikes by parents in middle school.
Many of Bandung’s residents prefer to use their own motorcycles and cars instead of public transport — getting around Bandung on public transport can be a slow, frustrating experience. On top of this, up-to-date information on routes, fares, and schedules was previously extremely hard to find. Today, with complete public transport network data available from WhereIsMyTransport, understanding and moving around Indonesia’s sprawling, second-largest city can be easier than ever.
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About our research methodology
The Research team at WhereIsMyTransport spans four continents and has conducted research into public transport and the mobility experience across the Majority World. The team practices a mix of anthropological and user-centric research methodologies to explore the ground truth, understand product-market fit, and drive human and data-led decision making. These activities allow us to deeply understand the complexities and nuances of public transport networks from the perspective of the people who rely on them on a daily basis. They inform the data points that are most relevant and valuable to produce, and provide the context and foundation of our data offering.