Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gosong di Genteng

Yes, Ujung Genteng was fun; yes, the beaches are pristine and yes, the newly hatched tortoises are mighty cute. And obviously there is a correlation between all the above points with the atrocity that is Bogor-Sukabumi road when you brave it using a public transportation.

I can rail at the cramped seats, the ngetem time that almost tempted Godot to show up, the ever present second hand smoke, but I'd rather raise a more interesting point here: can we morally justify chartering an angkot for our own private use in Ujung Genteng?

But first, a primer on the state of public transportation in Ujung Genteng.

There are no buses bound for Ujung Genteng from Bogor, and the furthest that we can go in that direction from Bogor is to Surade, a small kecamatan some 15 km away. All your travel guides and blogs in the wide Web will point out that to reach Ujung Genteng you'd need to transfer to a Surade-Ujung Genteng angkot. (and they'd say the last of these angkot will operate only until around 4 pm, but this last bit turns out to be inaccurate: we arrived at Surade at 5 pm and there were still a couple of them idling, waiting for passengers.)

So we hopped on one of them, noted that the back still bore the vestige of "Cisitu-Tg. Lega" route guide, and asked the driver to bring us to Amanda Ratu villa.

After opined on our inn of choice ("Terlalu mahal itu Dek,") he then offered his angkot for us to charter the day after. All the while listing the sights worth to see in the area. ("Jadi ya Dek, ada juga Curug yang satu lagi...")

Cindy saved his number, and later that night I called him again, saying we'd like to see tortoises laying eggs. We're using his service again the day after, and for the day after I rode shotgun.

And so I got to see how local people went up and tried to hail our angkot, and their disappointed* faces when our driver signaled back that his angkot wasn't operating normally.

So the immediate impression was, "Are we making the place worse with our visit? Can Ujung Genteng locals whine about us just like Bandung people do against the visiting Jakartans every. Single. Weekend?"

Well, probably yes. Our chartering the angkot means it's a bit harder for the local to get around when they have no means of transportation on their own. And the fleet of angkot is pretty small to begin with. Ujung Genteng people, sorry.

But then when we're talking public transportation in places like Ujung Genteng, they're not exactly public. I would be very surprised if Sukabumi government did anything that can be categorized as helpful in regard of public transportation. Unlike Kyoto with its Kyoto City Bus which fleet seems to be owned by the city government, I'd wager that the Surade angkots aren't much different with any ordinary private cars: they are privately owned by individuals who then decided that they'd turn them to a livelihood. The only difference probably is just the colour of their license plate, and I can only hope/guess that they pay less on their annual vehicle tax, as they'd fill in a void in a basic service government cannot provide.

The point I'm trying to make is that because they are private means, they do not have the explicit mandate to serve the local people first and foremost. If they consent to have their car used by the tourists for a day or two then so be it. And as the idea to charter the car was first proposed by the angkot driver himself, we can safely say that he not only consented to the idea: he assented to it. Figured the prospect of a handsome profit** for him did not hurt.

The last party to be considered here after the local people and the driver/owner is naturally the tourist themselves. But it's a moot point, really. Unless they (we) didn't see them(our)selves benefiting from the convenience of having a chartered car, they (us) would not have had hired him.

Only the people trying to live conscientiously will even bother to expound some 1000-odd words on this matter.

And the reason for this exposition is partly trying to judge this economic exchange in regard to Kant's categorical imperative. Will it be ok when everyone do the same thing? Quite probably not. It's not a problem when only one or two groups are chartering angkots, the locals will only have to wait a little longer, but they still get their transport anyway and the rest of the angkot driver might even see a modest increase of demand to the service they provide. Good for the tourist, good for the chartered angkot driver, good for the rest of the angkot driver, slightly more inconvenient for the locals.

If too many groups are chartering, however, then we'll have a problem: too few angkot serving that route, if any. Granted, this problem will be seasonal, and will be particularly troublesome on long weekends and holiday seasons. But even the locals still need to go around on those days. And those without private means of transportation will be deprived of an option.

Should we, at this point, call upon the government to, you know, govern? To draft a limitation?

This problem will certainly be nonexistent if every tourist who wishes to enjoy the natural beauty of Ujung Genteng brings her own vehicle. Only that this will create a different problem vis a vis congestions and resentment a la Bandung. And isn't chartering contributes more to local economy than bringing your own vehicle?

If I were to have the last word, I'd rather have the government build railways***. Might make it easier to transport the abundant natural resources from the region as well.

Though whether such proposition is economically feasible is of course a study for a different story.

* only slight exaggeration here. Some did seem to be mostly bored.
** these poor, poor gullible tourists. Bless their bleeding hearts.
*** obvious Japanese choice slant is obvious but hey, it's not without merit.

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