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More than just free rides: Educating MRT commuters will help mitigate risks

Carolyn Baytion-Sunaryo
Carolyn Baytion-Sunaryo

Executive director of Lembaga Sertifikasi Profesi Manajemen Risiko

Jakarta  /  Thu, March 21, 2019  /  04:25 pm
More than just free rides: Educating MRT commuters will help mitigate risks

What a ride: Jakartans enjoy a trial run of the first phase of the Jakarta MRT, which connects Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, on Tuesday. City-owned PT MRT Jakarta is carrying out a free trial of its new service through March 24, with the aim to attract 285,000 passengers. (The Jakarta Post/Wendra Ajistyatama)

In March 2019, Jakarta will open its MRT to transport 2 million commuters every day.

As I was strolling along Thamrin, one of Jakarta’s central business districts, after a work-related visit in the area, I could see modern, well-lit subway stations that were still closed but manned by security guards. I felt like I was transported to a European city with minimalist, ultra-modern stations. I couldn’t wait to see what the subway would look like with PT MRT Jakarta's promised shopping arcades and other amenities.

The reason why we need transportation is that we need to go from our residence to our workplace or places where we can relax and have fun. There are many ways of satisfying this need but we will choose the fastest and most affordable option, which will give us the most satisfaction. We are only satisfied if our expectations match our experience. We expect that our MRT ride will be safe, on time, comfortable and affordable. A lot of factors will be involved to make this possible, which is mainly a combination of training MRT employees in operating the trains and providing customer service to commuters, the ease in the use of MRT facilities and the attitude and behavior of commuters.

As this is a new mode of transportation in Jakarta, the general public needs to be educated on how to use the facilities, what to do in case of emergency and how to properly behave in the surrounding areas of the stations and inside the train itself. Free rides provided by MRT Jakarta will be helpful in this regard.

MRT Jakarta CEO William Sabandar, serving as one of the speakers during the national conference on “Managing Risk in a Disruptive Era” on Dec 12 and 13 last year, implied that free rides will provide feedback and help correct whatever minor technical and human errors that may arise in the operation of the MRT. They may simulate an earthquake to gauge commuters’ reaction and see how prepared employees are in coping with unexpected situations.

Free rides are provided between March 12 and 24 before the MRT is opened to the public. Registration for these free rides opened on March 5 at Bukalapak, but when I checked on March 6, the available slots were only for March 15 and 18 to 22. In just a day, weekend free rides were gone. This goes to show that Jakartans are really looking forward to experiencing their first MRT ride.

Read also: More than 180,000 Jakartans sign up for MRT free trial

MRT employees and their managers have gone through various training programs and will teach commuters how to use the new facilities and handle unexpected events that may occur. These unexpected events vary from low to high frequency; with insignificant to catastrophic impacts.

Anticipating problems before they arise will ensure commuters arrive at their intended destination safely and provide a positive experience that will help spread positive word-of-mouth experiences regarding this mode of transportation.

What may these unexpected events or risks be? It may vary from natural disasters such as low-to-high intensity earthquakes and floods to those committed by humans such as terrorism. Although the possibility of these events is quite low, the impact would be huge.

We have to learn how Japan copes with frequent earthquakes. Bullet trains in Japan are equipped with sensors that stop the train when an earthquake occurs. In the 2011 9.0-magnitude earthquake, there were 27 bullet trains in operation. The sensors worked perfectly. Triggered by the smaller pre-quakes, the trains stopped before the major earthquake occurred and no injuries nor deaths ensued.

Another lesson we can learn from Japan is regarding the sarin attack in 1995 that resulted in 12 deaths and injuries to thousands of commuters, employees and first responders from the police and military. The New York Times reported on March 21, 1995, that the sarin gas was transported in liquid form inside lunch boxes and bottled drinks and left in subway stations and trains. No personnel were trained to respond to a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction at that time. To help prevent more people from being hurt, since these are unexpected events that no one can foresee, commuters are encouraged to report any bags, boxes or personal effects that are left unattended anywhere in stations and inside trains. More so, with the real threat of terrorism, everyone must help in reporting suspicious individuals or people who act in a strange way.

Unexpected events are, well, unexpected. The management of the MRT anticipated this before the project began with risk management procedures in place during construction and in operations. But as commuters, we better not just hope that these situations will not arise.

First, we must always follow the rules. The rules might be posted on walls or broadcasted through speakers. Second, we must not panic when something out of the ordinary happens.

Third, we must report any unusual packages, bags or boxes lying unattended in the stations or trains. This would include reporting people whose actions would lead you to believe that they intend to do harm.

I still couldn’t imagine how rush hours would look like but if I based it on my experience in using Transjakarta buses, there will be some pushing and shoving. We need to plan our trips and avoid rush hours, especially when we are taking babies and toddlers with us.

MRTs, light rapid transits and trams are the public transportation of today and the near future. We must be able to use them properly so that they will fulfill their purpose of making us more productive and efficient in the use of our time and make Indonesian cities more habitable and humane. (kes)


Carolyn Baytion Sunaryo is the executive director of Lembaga Sertifikasi Profesi Manajemen Risiko, Jakarta. She has started blogging on topics dear to her heart such as health and happiness at her website: Her upcoming blogs will be devoted to topics related to marketing in our daily life:

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.