Just two weeks ago Bali celebrated the launch of a game-changing free shuttle service for tourists in Bali.
In a six-month trial partnership between the Provincial Government of Bali and the Toyota Mobility Fund a new dail-a-ride shuttle bus service around the heart of the island’s arts and cultural capital of Ubud.
While the new shuttle service has been hailed by many as a much-needed step forward in tackling transportation issues in Bali, just over a week into the new program some local taxi drivers are not happy about the new scheme.
Some local taxi service providers feel that the free shuttle bus service is taking revenue away from their businesses.
The Toyota Mobility Fund has invested over USD 1.7 million into bringing this project to life. There are five eEV electric shuttle buses in service and five hybrid vehicles too.
The project is being funded by the Toyota Mobility Fund, not the provincial government, though some local drivers feel like their government isn’t looking out for their livelihoods in this new partnership.
A group of local taxi drivers have lodged formal complaints with the Gianyar Transportation Agency, who have now issued a public statement in response.
Speaking to reporters Head of the Gianyar Transportation Service, I Made Arianta, explained that local drivers may be disgruntled because of miscommunication and rumors spreading about the project in the community.
Arianta explained, “This is Toyota’s CSR given to the Bali Provincial Government. So it is not a program funded by the APBD, neither the Bali Provincial Government’s APBD, let alone the Gianyar Regency Government’s APBD.”
He added, “It only lasts for 6 months. Later, it can be carried out by stakeholders working in the transportation sector, with the hope of reducing traffic jams in Ubud.”
“Because traffic jams in Ubud are caused by vehicle capacity being greater than road capacity. [The service] can be used by workers, residents, and tourists.”
Though the SMART @Ubud shuttle bus service has primarily been marketed toward tourists since its launch.
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Arianta told the press that an extensive assessment had been carried out before the free shuttle service was introduced, and it was confirmed that the 6-month trial would not impact the income of local drivers.
He continued, “In our opinion, it is not conventional drivers who are being [impacted], but online drivers. Because we have seen so far, conventional drivers prefer to take guests from villas or hotels to tourist attractions or shopping centers outside Ubud.”
But Ariana’s comments have not done much to assuage the frustrations felt by some local drivers. One local taxi driver, Tucah, told reporters that he has experienced canceled bookings since the shuttle service launched last week.
Tucah revealed, “In reality, the existence of this free shuttle has harmed me and other drivers. Moreover, information about this free shuttle is posted in crowded places. So many guests know about it.”
“Why do people bring money and [services are] given for free? Instead of the government opening up lots of job opportunities, this instead takes away people’s jobs.”
Tucah told reporters that the traffic levels in Ubud have remained unaffected since the ten shuttle vehicles were deployed.
He added, “I also often see traffic jams with this shuttle. I hope there is a solution that doesn’t impoverish the community.”
Arianta concluded, “In essence, this program is to break up traffic jams in Ubud. And, this free shuttle can be used by everyone, not just tourists. We will carry out evaluations so that no one is harmed.”
The free shuttle bus can be booked via the SMART @Ubud app which can be downloaded from any smartphone app store.
The bus route offers pick up and drop off at the majority of Ubud’s most popular landmarks and tourist attractions, including the Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud Palace, and Ubud Art Market.
Everything you need to know about booking a ride can be found in our explainer guide here.
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