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Jakarta Post

Outlook: Jakarta eyes bright future for urban transportation in 2019

  • Fachrul Sidiq

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, January 2, 2019   /   11:28 am
Outlook: Jakarta eyes bright future for urban transportation in 2019 The future is here: Workers unload MRT cars from a ship in Tanjung Priok Port, North Jakarta, on April 4, 2018. (The Jakarta Post/Seto Wardhana)

Jakarta’s urban mobility is to get a significant facelift this year with the new, modern, railway-based public transportation MRT and light rapid transit (LRT) services ready to serve residents of the sprawling capital.

However, will they defeat the city’s notorious traffic?

The Jakarta administration has repeatedly claimed that 2019 would be a landmark year for pushing behavioral change in city dwellers who are known for their love of private vehicles. The administration hopes the maiden operation of the country’s first ever MRT, along with the city-run LRT, would trigger a wave of changes in the way people move in the city.

As home to more than 10 million registered residents, the capital city is trying to meet urban demands with a patchwork of development. Compared to other big cities in the region, it is lagging behind in terms of having a reliable and integrated public transportation system.

Despite improvements to the railway service run by state-owned company PT KAI and to the city’s own Transjakarta rapid transit bus service in the past few years, many residents still rely on private vehicles when roaming the capital.

There are more than 14 million motorcycles and nearly 5 million cars registered in Jakarta, according to data from the Greater Jakarta Transportation Body (BPTJ), but the actual figure could be far higher as millions of vehicles from the city’s periphery are used to commute daily to the capital.

“The year 2019 will be transformational for Jakarta’s public transportation. We call it the year of integration” Jakarta Transportation Agency acting head Sigit Widjatmoko told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

“Two new modes of public transportation services will be introduced to the public.”

The Jakarta’s LRT, which connects the Velodrome station in East Jakarta and Kelapa Gading in North Jakarta, is scheduled to begin commercial operations in January, while the MRT, rebranded as Ratangga by Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, is to commence operations in March.

The first phase of the MRT connects Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta to Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, which is to run through 13 stations. The service will take passengers 15.7 kilometers in less than 30 minutes.

With 16 trains, the MRT is intended to carry 60,000 passengers per day in the first few months of its operation.

Plans are also in place to extend the service to Sunter in North Jakarta, Cikarang in West Java and Balaraja in Banten in the next few years.

“When starting operations, they are expected to lure motorists to shift to public transportation as we are also trying to expand Transjakarta services to previously untapped areas,” Sigit said, adding that integration of the different modes would be key to reliable, convenient, safe and affordable public transportation services.

In the third quarter of 2019, the Greater Jakarta LRT, which is to connect Bogor, Depok and Bekasi in West Java to the capital city, is also expected to begin full operations.

The call for integration, including of a payment scheme, has never been greater to attract passengers, who are currently struggling to move from one mode of transportation to another because of the long walking distances from one station to another.

The fact that many sidewalks and footbridges are not well maintained or are occupied by street vendors and parked vehicles, or used by motorcycles, has further discouraged residents from moving around on foot.

However, experts warn that the MRT and LRT may not magically erase Jakarta’s traffic woes.

“We may not really see a drastic change in Jakarta’s traffic,” said Alvinsyah, a transportation expert from the University of Indonesia.

Improvements of public transportation modes must also be aligned with tougher restrictions on vehicle use. He cited that one of the strategies is increasing parking fees for cars.

“Psychologically, no individual would voluntarily be willing to downgrade from using private cars to taking public transport so it should be enforced through elegant and accountable policies,” he said.

Ellen Tangkudung of the Jakarta Transportation Council (DTKJ) said that the relevant authorities should take the time to convince residents about the excellence of the public transportation services.

“A small example is to create an integrated app run by the operator that provides real-time locations of the services. It’s important to ensure punctuality,” she said.

MRT Jakarta president director William Sabandar said the MRT service would bring a new experience for residents, which would eventually encourage them to leave their cars in their garages.

“The MRT will provide effective and efficient mobility,” he said, adding that the fare proposed would be around Rp 8,500 (US 58 cents) per trip, which would be cheaper than having to drive private vehicles or take ride-hailing transportation services.

According to Jakarta’s spatial plan, the administration aims to increase the average speed of vehicles in the city to 35 km per hour by 2030 from the current speed of less than 20 kph. To realize it, the city wants 60 percent of journeys in the capital to be made on public transportation, more than double the current 24 percent.

Among the policies to restrict private vehicle use, the city administration also decided to extend the odd-even traffic policy, which covers nearly all main thoroughfares in Jakarta, starting on Wednesday. The decision was made to compensate for the lateness in applying the much anticipated electronic road pricing (ERP) scheme, which is currently being tendered and is projected to start in November next year.

The implementation of the odd-even policy at several toll gates connecting Jakarta to its satellite cities, including Tangerang in Banten, as well as Bogor and Bekasi, which was initially expected to halve the number of cars entering Jakarta during the hosting of 2018 Asian Games and Asian Para Games, has been deemed successful by many in easing Jakarta’s congestion, allowing vehicles to move at a faster pace.

Moreover, to support connections between all transportation modes, the administration is also working to overhaul the existing routes of angkot(public minivans) to reach more areas. Of the total 156 decade-old routes, many are overlapping and no longer relevant to the current situation, as housing areas are scattered in every corner of the city.

“There are many areas that cannot be reached by angkot. Our target is to reroute and simplify them to 93 routes within the next three years” Transjakarta operations director Daud Joseph said.

Governor Anies had previously said he wanted to have an angkot stop within at least 500 meters of housing or activity centers.

His administration had also launched JakLingko, a one-fare public transportation scheme that was expected to integrate all public transportation services in the capital.

With JakLingko, drivers do not need to worry about how many passenger they carry, as the city administration would pay them under a rupiah-per-kilometer scheme, a move that aims to curtail the practice of ngetem (idling) at the side of the road to wait for passengers, which disrupts traffic.

Angkot and micro-buses are to serve as feeders for Transjakarta, which already saw a meteoric rise in passenger numbers in the past few years. The service set a record in 2018 when it carried 730,000 passengers per day, a significant jump from 331,000 per day in 2015.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Jan. 2, 2019, with the title "Jakarta eyes bright future for urban transportation in 2019".