Unfriending private vehicles
The Jakarta administration has decided to back off. After months of campaigning for its plan to ban motorcycles on the city’s main roads of Jl. Sudirman and Jl. MH Thamrin, it has bowed to pressures to abort the program. The Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres) advised the administration to call off the plan as multiple infrastructure projects have resulted in limited public transportation alternatives in the area.
Transjakarta and regular buses, which are also caught in chronic congestion caused by the closure of several road lanes, are considered not ready to take on additional passengers in the event the motorcyclists were banned from using the roads.
The cancelation, however, should not stop the administration from finding a solution to the city’s gridlock. It is clear the city has too many motorcycles and cars than it can handle. The millions of vehicles cause headaches while on and off the streets.
The Jakarta Transportation Agency recorded that 10,080 vehicles were caught encroaching sidewalks in August when it commenced Orderly Sidewalk Month. The agency and police ticketed and towed vehicles despite rants from their owners.
Qlue, the administration’s app for public complaints, recorded last month that two main problems on sidewalks were illegal parking and dysfunctional street lamps. About 60 percent of more than 4,000 sidewalk complaints pertained to illegal parking. Oftentimes people resort to parking on streets and sidewalks as parking lots in shopping malls and office buildings are already full.
There is no quick fix for all the traffic problems, but the only way to address the overpopulation of vehicles is to encourage people to leave their motorbikes or cars at home and switch to public transportation. Jakarta streets should be made unfriendly to private vehicles.
While waiting for the arrival of the MRT and other major public transportation systems, it is not a bad idea for the administration to consider doubling or tripling parking fees to discourage car use.
The administration should not spoil motorists any longer as the city’s carrying capacity of vehicles is narrowing. After all, the city’s parking rates, currently standing at Rp 4,000 (30 US cents) per hour for cars and Rp 2,000 per hour for motorcycles, are among the lowest in the world.
Another disincentive is raising vehicle-related taxes such as vehicle-ownership transfer fees (BBN-KB), motorized vehicle tax (PKB) and fuel taxes.
Even if full monitoring and implementation remains difficult, it will force motorists to think twice before turning on their vehicles, especially because various forms of relatively convenient modes of transportation such as Transjakarta are in place.
The administration’s bid to expand and enlarge sidewalks in the city this year is another blow for motorists, but on the other hand it benefits pedestrians and encourages more people to walk.
The administration has to act anyway, or else the city will continue to lag behind other metropolises. The government’s aspiration to develop the capital into a regional and global political and economic player will never materialize.