After reading The Economist magazine September 2010 issue, I realized that Jakarta had a new call: The largest city in the world without a metro. The Economist reported that car ownership in Jakarta had increased by 10-15 percent a year. Motorcycles are ubiquitous and can be acquired with a downpayment of as little as US$30.
On the other hand, the growth rate of Jakarta’s road is less than 1 percent a year. The daily jams in Jakarta are getting worse. Jakarta is estimated to lose $3 billion a year due to transport delays and to attain total traffic gridlock in 2014.
The acute traffic congestion in Jakarta has also prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to revisit the idea of capital relocation out of Jakarta. Relocating the capital out of Jakarta could reduce urbanization and the rate of car ownership in Jakarta and its surrounding areas, but it will not completely address the traffic congestion in Jakarta.
Jakarta needs a fundamental change in management of public transportation. The current public transportation has not been able to alleviate the acute traffic congestion in Jakarta. Jakarta now needs the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) or also popularly known as Metro to address its transportation problem.
Most metropolitan areas in the world with a population of more than 10 million have operated metros for years. New York City opened the first underground line of the subway in 1904 and the subway has been the backbone of the New York City transportation system since.
Two major cities in Japan, Tokyo and Osaka, built their metros in 1927 and 1933 respectively. The Tokyo Metro is the world’s most extensive rapid transit system with more than eight million passengers daily. The second largest city in the world, Mexico City, has built a metro since 1969 and now the Mexico City Metro is the second largest metro system in North America after the New York City subway. Two major cities in China, Beijing and Shanghai opened their metro systems in 1971 and 1995 respectively.
Major cities in Southeast Asia, which have less population than Jakarta, have also had their metro systems for years, including Manila (1999), Singapore (1987), Kuala Lumpur (1995) and Bangkok (2004).
The MRT would become the most expensive public project in Jakarta’s history, but it is the answer to
avoid a total traffic gridlock in Jakarta. For at least 20 years, the proposal of MRT in Jakarta has been discussed by the Jakarta city administration and the government of
The activists and non-governmental watchdogs have seen the MRT proposal as a possible bonanza for corrupt politicians and contractors (The Economist, Feb. 4, 2010).
Eventually, the government secured a $1.6 billion loan agreement with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2009 for funding the Jakarta’s MRT project.
Vice President Boediono has also asked the JICA to expedite the design and construction of the MRT project to alleviate traffic congestion in Jakarta. The final project designed was expected to be completed in 2011. The first tract of the MRT project was expected to connect the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle and Kota in 2016 (The Jakarta Post, Oct. 20, 2010).
I would suggest two fundamental steps for the Jakarta city administration in order to effectively address the acute transportation problem in Jakarta. First, integrate the MRT project with the current public transportation modes, including the Transjakarta Busway, public minibuses Metromini and Kopaja, angkot and Mikrolet (public minivans) and City Bus.
The reliability, accessibility and affordability of the public transportation system should be improved for all levels of Jakarta residents. The development of the public transportation system should also consider the needs of residents in Jakarta’s hinterlands including Tangerang, Bekasi, Depok and Bogor.
Second, convert car riders and motorcyclists into public transport riders/MRT riders. This would be the critical key for Jakarta’s success in overcoming traffic congestion. Without the conversion of car riders and motorcyclists into public transport riders/MRT riders, the traffic congestion in Jakarta would never be resolved and the MRT project would be an ineffective investment.
The conversion of car riders and motorcyclists in to public transport/MRT riders is not an easy thing to accomplish.
Careful and comprehensive planning that involves various stakeholders is needed. The Jakarta city administration also needs to learn from the experience of the Transjakarta Busway operation particularly on how to get those who travel by car to use the Transjakarta Busway.
Last but not least, the inconvenience of drivers and motorcyclists due to the acute traffic congestion in Jakarta could be considered a great asset for public transport/MRT riders.
The public transport and MRT system should offer reliable, accessible, punctual, comfortable, safe and affordable transportation modes in order for drivers and motorcyclists to leave their vehicles and ride public transport and/or MRT as their primary transportation modes.
The writer is assistant professor and coordinator of urban studies and planning at Savannah State University, the US.