Alleviation of Jakarta's traffic congestion in limbo
Achmad Izzul Waro
The Jakarta Post
The traffic congestion plaguing Jakarta is deteriorating so much that Vice President Boediono has warned Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo about failing to implement programs to ease the gridlock that are part of the city's responsibility.
The assessment was based on Jakarta's achievements in implementing the 17 Steps to Overcome Congestion plan, issued by the Vice President in 2010. One program in which the Jakarta government performed below expectations was in using retribution as a tool to control the traffic, more popularly known as electronic road pricing (ERP).
Under Government Regulation (PP) No. 97/2012, there are several steps that must be taken by the Jakarta administration to immediately adopt the road-charge concept. First, the city should immediately determine which roads are in compliance with the necessary criteria, namely those with the presence of two or more lanes in each direction, as well as road density (traffic volume divided by the road capacity) higher than 0.9 and an average trip speed of no more than 10 kilometers per hour.
Second, a mass transit system with sufficient levels of service must be in place on the roads where the ERP will be applied. Regarding the existence of the Transjakarta busway, the benchmark of services that should be reached is based on Transportation Ministry Regulation No. 10/2012 on minimum service standards (SPM) for road-based mass transit systems.
Furthermore, the city administration has to propose roads that could be subject to ERP to the central government, through the Transportation Ministry. The ministry then has 60 working days to gauge whether the roads are in accordance with the criteria. The minister should respond after consulting with the forum of traffic and road transport, as regulated by PP No. 38/2011.
On the other hand, PP No. 97/2012 stipulates that roads where ERP will be implemented must be stated in a regional ordinance. It would therefore require the Jakarta administration to revise Bylaw No. 12/ 2003 on road traffic and transport as soon as possible.
Implementation of ERP as a replacement for the 20-year-old traffic restriction policy popularly known as 3-in-1 is actually the concept of the internalization of transport externalities, where every road user that contributes to congestion must pay an amount of money that is used to subsidize public transport riders.
Consequently, the city administration should ensure better services for users of roads with a road-density less than 0.7. In other words, the financial losses suffered by road users due to congestion would be moved into the official retribution for smoother traffic flow, so ideologically there would be no additional burden on road users.
In order to effectively achieve better services in terms of road density, the administration should set the ERP rate quite high, considering the car owners' ability to pay. The initial assumption is that a car driver spends at least Rp 40,000 (US$3.53) to pay for two hired passengers to pass the restricted roads, and therefore the ERP rate cannot be set below that amount.
In fact, with the advancement of technology that exists today, the administration could soon implement ERP rates that can be adjusted according to fluctuating levels of congestion and road-density ratio. However, that would require cutting-edge information technology systems to ensure transparency so as not to arouse suspicion among drivers.
Another thing that should be taken into account is that every cent that goes to the ERP areas must be used to cover the operational costs of the system itself, while the rest should be allotted to the improvement of traffic services and public transport. If it works well, there would be a huge amount of funds that Transjakarta could use to invest in its service quality in accordance with the minimum standard, in which every passenger should be able to take a comfortable bus within 7 minutes.
In order to keep ERP implementation accountable, we need an independent overseeing agency that has competence, commitment and integrity. Therefore, the governor must empower the Transportation Council in order to open up the opportunity for the public to participate in this role of oversight.
By implementing ERP, car users would be satisfied as the roads would become smooth, while public transport users would also be happy as the quality of their services would be assured. Furthermore, air pollution could be significantly diminished and emission reduction targets ' 26 percent for the unilateral scenario or 41 percent if supported by international assistance, according Presidential Regulation No. 61/2011 ' could be achieved by 2020.
Finally, ERP would accelerate the movement of people and goods as well as economic activities within the capital city. Jakarta would transform into a livable city and a center of global business.
The writer is a transport advisor at German International Cooperation (GIZ) and a member of Jakarta Transportation Council. The views expressed are personal.
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