No resident of Jakarta, or visitor (apart from Barack Obama), needs to be told that getting around the city is a very stressful activity. However, that is what a Public Policy Student writing in his Jakarta Post sponsored blog has done.
Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, technically I don’t live in Jakarta but spend most of my time and daily activities there. I live just a bit south of Jakarta where you cross a bridge and administratively belong to the South Tangerang bureaucracy under the Banten Province. Others may live in Depok, Cibubur, Bekasi, and even Bogor, but still make their living in Jakarta.
My daily routine starts by waking up early in the morning, bracing myself for the traffic congestion that I knowingly will endure when I go to my office. On a good day, it will take me 45 minutes; 1 hour for a realistic estimate and 2 hours for a worst-case scenario. However, you factor the time when you commute back to your house, on average you will spend 1,5-4 hours on the road in Jakarta, per day.
A good friend who’s been here the same length of time as me, 23+ years, told me yesterday that he estimated that he’d spent close to three years in taxis in that time. I use public transport when that’s an available option, and always carry some reading material, but my expenditure must be roughly the same as his, and if I add on what my family spends on their individual outings ….. .
Further reinforcement of how bad things are comes from Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company whose “Growth Partnership Service provides the CEO and the CEO’s Growth Team with disciplined research and best-practice models to drive the generation, evaluation, and implementation of powerful growth strategies” – and not referring to their tautology. Their Journey Experience Index ranks Jakarta at 23rd out of 23 cities worldwide because commuters “... were mainly dissatisfied due to traffic congestion for individual transport and overcrowding in public transportation.”
I am surprised to note that Singapore is only ranked at 23 because it’s a positive pleasure to get around, if only for a day or two.
Copenhagen sounds nice as it “topped the index with an average score of 81.5 points in overall journey experience – public and private transportation – due to its high usage of non-motorised transport, such as bicycles and integrated public transportation system.” And a focus on improved pedestrian areas. However, “Seattle and Sydney scored highly due to its excellent road infrastructure and high car ownership. Our analysis shows that cities with high car ownership tend to record higher satisfaction in overall journey experience.”
That last sentence is the very reason for Jakarta’s low ranking! Seven years ago I suggested that Jakarta should have a Five Year Transport Plan as adopted by London. A number of its proposals seemed eminently sensible and could have been adopted here.
Seven years later, none of these have happened:
• Switch to low-floor buses with CCTV.
• Introduction of low-emission zone by 2007
• Initiatives to encourage more walking
• pedestrian crossings giving priority to pedestrians.
• New street lighting (rather than illuminated adverts).
• New security measures for stations, e.g. no ticket touts.
But work has commenced on the following:
• A cycle network – albeit a single bike lane
• Extension of the 3-in-1 scheme throughout the day – due to be replaced with an electronic congestion charge next year … or … maybe notl
• Air-cooled trains – new (secondhand) rolling stock has made a difference although carriages are deteriorating fast.
• Rail link from town to Soekarno-Hatta Airport. – land clearance is underway at Manggarai in preparation for its transformation into Jakarta’s main rail hub. Or, that’s what we’ve been told.
The monorail has been abandoned and two elevated roads are under construction and adding to the congestion. In brief, any ‘improvements’ have been offset by a focus on the ‘needs’ of private motorists. And the rest of us continue to suffer.
Such is the incompetence of City Hall, that Central Government has now stepped in with a ‘solution’: based on a presidential regulation, it will form a Greater Jakarta Transportation Authority (OTJ) to solve Jakarta’s transport problem’s.. The only problem is that this will solve little, given that six toll roads are part of the plan.
There is the familiar proposal to add to the rail network, such as from Manggarai to Soekarno-Hatta airport, yet with a limited budget from the government to maintain and develop its aging infrastructure, the country’s railway operator has been struggling to survive “unfair” competition with road-based transportation, which has been heavily subsidized by the government.
There are so many incidences of reasonable ideas being floated, then not carried out because meetings need to be held to draft regulations, or (most probably) to allocate brown envelopes.
Why else should the Jakarta Administration soon start building underground walkways to support the planned Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) network system, when they haven’t yet determined exactly where the stations will be? And couldn’t they first provide them for access to the Busway, for example at the Kampung Melayu terminus where you risk your life in crossing crowded roads?
On our visit to the Taman Prasasti Cemetery, Our Kid and I got off one Busway stop too early, Bank Indonesia instead of Monumen Nasional, and had a bit of a hike to the haven. One road, Jl.Abdul Muis, had an unexpectedly navigable pavement (Am. sidewalk). I remarked on this and he replied that this was because very few people used it. Similarly fine pedestrian passageways can be found beneath the cloverleaf intersection at Semangg where I’ve rarely seen a soul.
The rakyat are coerced into electing legislators with false promises, none of which seem to be of benefit to any other than those elected. Much like this blog post, but with less cohesion, the management of Jakarta’s mass transport is a matter of ‘cut and paste’. It’s nearly time to tell them to cut it out or the electors will surely give them a right pasting the next time they go to the polls.
I’m pleased that the Jakarta Transport Agency are now planning to connect public bus routes with train stations. The nine train stations targeted are Sudirman, Gambir, Juanda and Pasar Senen Stations in Central Jakarta; Jakarta Kota and Tanjung Priok Stations in North Jakarta; Mampang Station in South Jakarta and Matraman Station in East Jakarta.
Agency chief Udar Pristono said, “We will construct special access from these stations to the nearest Transjakarta bus shelters.” Mind you, it doesn’t quite fit with my suggestion four years ago that extra Busway haltes should be built, e.g. at Sudirman station which is midway, at a distance of at least half a kilometre from Tosari and Dukuh Atas haltes.
Nor does it help that current access is unsafe due to “funding woes“.
Note how motorcyclists can’t clog up the Cambridge Busway as they do in Jakarta.