Public transportation is all about service
While British people are talking about the weather, Jakartans prefer transportation to start a conversation. We breathe more and more polluted air every day and take more time to move from one place to another.
The lack of a proper public transportation system has kept people reliant on private cars, which pack dense roads and create more traffic and air pollution.
A study on the development of environmentally sustainable transport systems in urban areas by Asia-Pacific Environmental Innovation Strategies (APEIS) in 2006 reported that some diseases emerged among people in urban areas of some Asian cities due to pollutants associated with vehicular emission, such as hydrocarbon, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and so on.
More than 100 cities worldwide have successfully implemented car-free zones to overcome the growing stress of car dependence and minimize air pollution. Except for service vehicles and emergency access, pedestrian paths and cycling tracks are the only transport available in the city.
A study by the International Association of Public Transport in 2009 showed that public transport combined with cycling and walking remarkably reduced the proportion of CO2 emissions. With 95 percent of the population depending on private cars, Houston in the US emits 5,690 kilograms of CO2 per capita per year compared to Hong Kong which emits only 378 kilograms of CO2 per capita per year, as 85 percent of the commuters prefer public transport, walking and cycling.
To reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles, the UK has adopted output of CO2 per kilometer as a basis for “vehicle tax” since 2001, in addition to registration charges. There are 13 bands of CO2 emissions applied. Vehicles with lower than 100 grams CO2 per kilometer emissions are free of tax, while vehicles with over 225 CO2 grams per kilometer emissions must pay £460 per year.
With 7 million daily commuters, Hong Kong is praised as the city with the most effective public transportation in the world. About 85 percent of commuters travel by mass public transport, cycling and walking. In New York about 4.5 million people a day use mass transit, more than half of the households do not own cars and up to 75 percent of the population in Manhattan travel without private cars.
With the oldest underground train system in the world, London moves 3.4 million people every day, not including those who take buses on the ground. With much more narrow roads than Jakarta’s, Londoners enjoy stepping around the city without being disturbed by traffic jams and polluted air. London, a capital city, is praised as having the safest roads in the world.
England’s Milton Keynes city was proposed as an energy efficient city when it was built in 1967. A 250-kilometer pedestrian and cycle network is well provided throughout the city of 89 square kilometers with total urban population of about 200,000 (compared to Jakarta at 661 square kilometers with nearly 10 million urban residents).
They use paths called “redways”, as the paths are covered by red asphalt surfaces to distinguish them from the motor ways. These surfaces change into more brown gravel where they travel through parks and more rural areas. Pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and local traffic are protected when crossing the Grid Roads by underpasses or bridges.
The Jakarta government seems reluctant to spend money on improving the city’s public transportation system. They are always debating budgets and the loss and profit of improving public transportation services. Public transportation is always seen as a profit-driven business rather than a service for the people.
As part of public service, the authorities must do whatever they can to meet the people’s needs. Public transportation must be seen as a part of a city’s spending rather than revenue, so talking about loss and profit in this case is inappropriate.
Within recent years the Auckland council authority spent about NZ$ 3.4 million or 44 percent of council expenditure to develop its rapid mass transportation to shift private car users to local trains and buses. There is no income expected from these transportation-related activities.
Good public transport will help accelerate inhabitants’ activities effectively and comfortably throughout the city. The city would benefit from orderly, un-crowded, un-polluted public transportation as people’s movement and business activities will be facilitated and from them the economy would grow.
The writer, a professor of architecture, is a visiting academic at the School of Architecture and Design, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
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