Jakarta

Getting older on the streets
of Jakarta

Sucked into the vortex: Cars pass through the iconic 46-year-old Semanggi cloverleaf interchange in Central Jakarta, which connects Jl. Sudirman, Jl. Gatot Subroto and the inner-city toll road and serves as the main connector of the capital’s main business district. JP/P.J. Leo

There was a time when you could get anywhere quickly in Jakarta during working hours on a weekday.

Most Jakartans, however, will say that it feels as if this last occurred an eternity ago.

Maddening traffic quagmires have become an everyday tradition in the city, where it is next to
impossible to go between places without getting stuck in at least one traffic jam.

With an 11.26 percent increase in the number of vehicles in the city over 2011 — compared to the 0.01 percent increase in the length of roads — and legions of other traffic problems, it feels like the gridlocks are not going away anytime soon.

They have become such a persistent source of pent-up frustration that Jakartans can do little but make fun of the problem, saying that traffic jams will make people “tua di jalan” (get older on the streets).

So, without further ado, here are five spots so notorious for traffic jams that Jakartans feel a little bit older while trapped in the gridlock.

1.  Semanggi cloverleaf interchange, Central Jakarta

Located in the heart of the Sudirman-Thamrin business district, the Semanggi cloverleaf was the pride of the capital in the 1950s. It is now only known as the meeting point of two busiest main thoroughfares: Jl. Gatot Subroto and Jl. Sudirman, and the inner-city toll road runs through it.

The interchange becomes a melting pot for all the different types of traffic jams across the capital. Even on its best days, the gridlock can reach almost a kilometer on some — if not all — of the interchange’s branches.

The four toll gates near the interchange (two exit gates and two entry gates) worsens matters. Vehicles going in and out of the toll road cross paths with those passing through the interchange, creating severe bottlenecks that can last for hours.

“When you have that many toll gates, that many office buildings, not to mention unruly public buses blocking the slow lanes as they wait for passengers, it would be a pipe dream to hope the area be free of traffic jams,” said Imam Akimaya, a resident of Mampang Prapatan, South Jakarta.

Solution: The city traffic police are proposing the permanent closure of the Semanggi I toll entry gate.

“Those wanting to enter the toll road can do so at the Semanggi II gate not far ahead,” city traffic police chief Sr. Comr. Dwi Sigit Nurmantyas said recently.

2.  Slipi intersection, West Jakarta

Crawl: Vehicles move very slowly through rush-hour traffic that happens twice a day on weekdays at the Slipi intersection, which borders Central and West Jakarta. JP/Wendra Ajistyatama
The intersection connects four areas infamous for traffic jams:

Semanggi on the southeast, Tomang on the northwest, Palmerah on the southwest and Tanah Abang on the northeast. This alone explains a lot about the hellish traffic conditions in the area.

Exacerbating the problem are the dozens of unruly public minivans and buses usually take up valuable road space to wait for passengers, especially at Jl. Palmerah Utara and Jl. Aipda Karel Satsuit Tubun. A busy railroad below the nearby Slipi flyover also makes things worse, as traffic must be closed when trains are trying to pass.

“And then there’s the Transjakarta buses,” Taxi driver Tarsim said recently. “Since they operated through Slipi, the traffic jams in the area actually has gotten worse, as the buses take up a lane normally used for other vehicles. Sometimes I think it’ll be better if Transjakarta doesn’t go through Slipi.”

The Transjakarta corridor IX, connecting Pinang Ranti in East Jakarta to Pluit in North Jakarta via Slipi, began operations in early 2011.

Solution: Seemingly, there isn’t one.

3.  Jl. Prof. Dr. Satrio, South Jakarta

The road has been known for its traffic jams for quite some time, mostly caused by people from all over Jakarta flocking to Ambassador Mall, a popular shopping center located on the street. Besides that, it connects business district Jl. HR Rasuna Said on the east, Mega Kuningan on the south, Jl. Sudirman and Tanah Abang on the west and the densely populated Karet Setiabudi on the north.However, its traffic jams reached legendary status since construction of an elevated road that connecting Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta to Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta began in early 2011.

The construction takes up most of the street, leaving just two lanes for traffic, creating severe bottlenecks and traffic backups reaching several kilometers, stretching from the Karet flyover that passes over Jl. Sudirman to way past the Casablanca Tunnel.

Solution: The city administration said that construction will be finished in the middle of the year. Let’s just hope the traffic jams will ease, even if just a little, afterward.

4. Cililitan toll gate, East Jakarta

Not even toll roads — which are often erroneously considered equal to freeways in Indonesia — are free from traffic jams in Jakarta. This particular toll gate is a prime example.

Part of the Jagorawi toll road that connects Jakarta to Bogor and Puncak, the toll gate is where motorists from three toll roads, stretching from Cikunir in Bekasi to Pondok Pinang in South Jakarta, connect to each other on their way to Jakarta.

“With around 10 toll gates and only four lanes of road going to Cawang and Tanjung Priok, how on earth can you hope to avoid bottlenecks in Cililitan?” asked Yonna Paramita, a resident of Cibubur, East Jakarta.

She said that she once got stuck in a near-complete standstill for 1.5 hours near the toll gate on her way to work.

Solution: “I hope that the administration would add more lanes to the toll road to equal to the number of the toll gates,” Yonna suggested.

5. Jl. Raya Fatmawati, South Jakarta

Part of a main thoroughfare that spans from Cilandak, South Jakarta, to Ancol in North Jakarta, Jl. Raya Fatmawati passes through Blok A and Blok M commercial districts, as well as numerous residential areas in Cipete, Cilandak, Lebak Bulus and Pondok Labu.

The traffic heading to Central Jakarta is usually jammed for hours in the mornings, when people from South Jakarta go to their offices in Central Jakarta, while the other side is usually jammed in the evenings.

Complete standstills are common sightings here. Notorious spots include the traffic lights in front of the ITC Fatmawati shopping center, the traffic lights in front of Lotte Mart, the intersection with Jl. TB Simatupang and the intersection in front of Pasar Pondok Labu.

A particular source of frustration is that last intersection, where motorists would be hard-pressed to figure out whether they must stop or go. No one seems to pay attention to the intersection’s traffic lights, especially Metromini and public minivans, which keep on going despite whether the light is green or red.

Solution: The police tried by detouring traffic heading to Jl. TB Simatupang so that a stretch of the road heading to Central Jakarta could accommodate four lanes of vehicles, but the congestion remains. — JP

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