December 01, 2005

Pedestrianization in Yogyakarta: Transforming the Malioboro One Step at a Time

Over the past three years, ITDP has been working with the Municipality of Yogyakarta, Indonesia to help pedestrianize Malioboro Road. For decades, many of Yogyakarta’s most important markets have been clustered around the Malioboro, and the road also serves as an important destination for tourists that provide a large share of the city’s income.

While some progress has been made with the pedestrianization effort, the difficulties encountered – political in nature, rather than technical—provide clues as to how these projects might be implemented elsewhere.

Some 6,000 motorcycles are sold each month in Yogyakarta and motorcycles make up 80% of the city’s vehicle fleet of 260,000. With the streets full of these noisy, polluting vehicles, the character of street life has fundamentally changed. As a city center, Malioboro Road should be able to carry 70,000 pedestrians per hour, but it is currently only able to handle 25,000 pedestrians per hour on its crowded sidewalks.

In 2000, the Mayor and the Sultan of Yogyakarta together issued a mandate to pedestrianize the street. As a test, Malioboro was closed from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday for one month. No formal assessment of public response was conducted, but the general perception was that some people enjoyed it, while motorcyclists and street vendors complained. When the revitalization and pedestrianization project lost momentum, ITDP became involved with support from USAID and the Toyota Foundation.

In close cooperation with Instrans and the Gadjah Mada University Center for Transportation Studies, ITDP focused on three areas: analysis of the traffic impact of the street closing and the preparation of a traffic mitigation plan; modernization of the becak; and outreach to the various Malioboro interest groups to move the pedestrian zone forward politically.

Subsequent findings showed that at least 13 groups were profiting from the appropriation of public space along the Malioboro. A not insignificant number of the groups involved are protection rackets and criminal gangs that control the parking, with connections that extend up to senior government figures that earn a few dollars by pretending not to notice the expropriation of public space by private interests.

Dealing with these parking interests has proven to be the main obstacle to project implementation. To show the city’s resolve, the Mayor is trying to pedestrianize the Malioboro by starting with the southernmost portion in front of the palace, an area with little commercial traffic but politically easier to achieve results.

In May 2005, the Mayor signed a memorandum of understanding with PT Duta Anggada Realty to construct an underground parking lot and shopping mall in this area, pedestrianizing the surface.

With a capacity of 2,000 motorcycle units, this parking lot is estimated to generate enough profit to re-employ the 118 parking attendants that would be displaced from Malioboro, to turn them into legal employees, and to increase their salaries five times.

However, the parking attendants do not support the plan. On August 20, 2005, they organized a demonstration against it. Perhaps they were put up to it by their bosses, they were misinformed, or they legitimately do not trust the company to actually include them in the new facility. At this point, the reason is unknown.

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