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Jakarta Post

Necessary pain?

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, August 10, 2019   /   09:16 am
Necessary pain? Street car park: Cars stuck in a traffic jam on Jl. Gatot Subroto in South Jakarta. Regular traffic jams are a common concern among the public as they cannot reach their destinations on time, leading not only to financial loss as a result of missed business deals or targets, but also energy loss as they have to use up more fuel. (The Jakarta Post/Seto Wardhana)

The Jakarta administration has decided to expand the odd-even policy to include more areas and extend its implementation by one hour, to the outrage of some motorists and businesses.

Governor Anies Baswedan made the decision after mounting pressure from the public to curb air pollution, believed to mostly come from motor vehicle emissions, and a recommendation from the Greater Jakarta Transportation Agency (BPTJ), which aims to alleviate the city’s notorious traffic jams.

Even though many Jakartans celebrated the MRT, they question whether the capital’s public transportation is ready for the expanded and extended restriction.

Greater Jakarta’s commuter trains have seen increasing passenger numbers every year, transporting over 300 million passengers last year. Busway operator PT Transjakarta has also experienced an increase in its fleet size and the number of passengers.

Nevertheless, for many who have relied on their cars to get around, taking public transportation is a nightmare. Under Jakarta’s tropical sun, getting on and off buses, trains or ojek (motorcycle taxis) is arduous. To those who have depended on air-conditioned vehicles, walking even 500 meters is unthinkable.

Not to mention the hassle of having to use two to four different public transportation modes. Businesspeople who need to bring a lot with them every day will have to think of new ways to run their business. Ride-hailing drivers are worried too.

This is, however, a necessary pain. Experts have stuck to a simple formula to avoid total gridlock in Jakarta: Restrict the number of private vehicles coming into the city and improve public transportation. Without some form of restricting motorists, people would always opt for private vehicles. Government data also says emissions from motor vehicles contribute 70 to 75 percent of air pollution.

Many world cities such as New York and Singapore have some kind of restriction in place. One form is to increase parking fees, to limit on-street parking or to make people pay a toll to enter busy streets, or electronic road pricing. Jakarta had a carpooling policy, called the 3-in-1 policy, until then-governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama changed it to the odd-even policy in 2016.

The BPTJ later expanded the policy to include more areas temporarily to ease traffic during last year’s Asian Games — with good results. TomTom’s Traffic Index showed last year that Jakarta’s traffic had made the “biggest improvement” of all cities on the list. Even though Jakarta still fell in the category of cities with the worst traffic, this is good news.

Experts said the odd-even policy and the improved services of the Commuter Line and Transjakarta buses had contributed to the ease of traffic.

The future of the city depends on our sacrifice. If Jakartans want to wait until the public transit system is perfect and all pedestrian facilities are super comfortable, the city might see gridlock first.

Yes, it is perhaps outrageous and will be painful for a lot of people, but Jakartans have survived various problems and have been known for their agility in adapting to new situations. After all, this is for our future.