SE Asia’s gi­ant un­der­goes surgery to un­clog TRAF­FIC-CON­GESTED ar­ter­ies

The Nation - - OPINION& ANALYSIS -

Pres­i­dent Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo has spo­ken. “We can­not con­tinue like this,” the for­mer Jakarta gover­nor told a meet­ing on Greater Jakarta traf­fic ear­lier this week.

Jakarta is sec­ond only to Bangkok in most rank­ings of South­east Asia’s con­gested streets.

In­done­sia’s leader promptly or­dered Vice Pres­i­dent Jusuf Kalla, known to be a de­ci­sive “can-do” leader, to clear clogged traf­fic in the sprawl­ing me­trop­o­lis by in­te­grat­ing all modes of pub­lic trans­porta­tion. To break the traf­fic grid­lock in a cap­i­tal of 30 mil­lion, Jokowi also or­dered pro­mo­tion of pub­lic trans­porta­tion in place of pri­vate cars, the growth of which far eclipses that of Jakarta’s streets.

How­ever, the pres­i­dent knows that he must over­come a huge ob­sta­cle to in­te­grat­ing pub­lic trans­port: There are too many stake­hold­ers de­fend­ing dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests and poli­cies. This year, two new sys­tems – the MRT and the light rapid tran­sit (LRT) – will be­gin serv­ing the pub­lic.

In­deed, Jakarta has never crafted an over­ar­ch­ing mas­ter­plan on pub­lic tran­sit. Op­er­a­tors of Tran­sJakarta buses, com­muter trains, the MRT and LRT each have their own plans – which do not nec­es­sar­ily con­nect with each other. Co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the Jakarta ad­min­is­tra­tion and Greater Jakarta satel­lites like Bekasi and Tangerang is ab­sent.

Jakarta Gover­nor Anies Baswedan was quick to sign on for a lead­ing role in the gi­ant task. Jakarta, he said, would take con­trol of 13 na­tional roads in the bid to re­duce traf­fic across the cap­i­tal.

Jokowi’s com­mand sums up the will of pol­i­cy­mak­ers un­der him. That the head of gov­ern­ment has or­dered all to “be brave” in tack­ling Jakarta’s traf­fic mad­ness should mark an aus­pi­cious be­gin­ning of a new era.

Last month, Jakarta Trans­porta­tion Agency head Sigit Wid­jat­miko promised that 2019 would be “trans­for­ma­tional”. “We call it the year of in­te­gra­tion,” he said.

An­other au­thor­ity, the Greater Jakarta Trans­porta­tion Agency (BPTJ), also an­nounced this year would be spe­cial. Peo­ple in the metropoli­tan city and its sur­round­ings will wit­ness “a gi­ant leap” with the start of the MRT, the LRT and the elec­tronic road-toll sys­tem. BPTJ head Bam­bang Pri­hartono said the MRT would serve as the back­bone of Jakarta trans­porta­tion, with sys­tems like the pop­u­lar com­muter train and Tran­sjakarta buses play­ing sup­port­ing roles.

Bam­bang also has in­te­gra­tion in mind. He said modes of trans­porta­tion older than the MRT and LRT would need to be re-routed to avoid over­lap­ping with the new ser­vices. The smaller modes should serve as first- and last-mile pub­lic trans­porta­tion providers, con­nect­ing res­i­den­tial ar­eas with the sta­tions.

The BPTJ wants all modes of pub­lic trans­porta­tion to adopt the same e-money tick­et­ing sys­tem, to make in­te­gra­tion a re­al­ity.

Tran­sJakarta, a pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem city-dwellers were slow to ac­cept, is cel­e­brat­ing its 15th an­niver­sary this year. In 2004, when then-gover­nor Su­tiyoso in­tro­duced the busway, many doubted peo­ple would leave their cars at home to take Tran­sJakarta buses. Even after 15 years, and with hun­dreds more buses hav­ing strength­ened the fleet, Tran­sJakarta has yet to con­vince all doubters, but it is now hard to imag­ine the cap­i­tal with­out the buses.

Of course, Tran­sJakarta can­not ac­com­plish the mam­moth task alone, but the in­te­gra­tion of all pub­lic trans­porta­tion hope­fully will clear con­ges­tion and cut travel times in In­done­sia’s no­to­ri­ously clogged cap­i­tal.

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