November 20, 2007

Elevated roads shot down by experts

Critics said “more roads means more traffic” about Governor Fauzi Bowo’s plan to expand driving space vertically, with elevated roadways stacked one above the other. Experts say difficulty in purchasing land for new roads is behind the plan.

Andi Rahmah of the Indonesian Transportation Society said Monday the build-more-roads paradigm was obsolete.

“Five years ago, benefits from a new road would last a year. But with current traffic and the number of cars now, we enjoy the benefit of a new road for only a few weeks at the most.”

“Expanding roads is not the answer by any means. It’s only a temporary remedy for traffic problems.”

For example, the Cikunir turnpike, which is part of the Jakarta Outer Ring Road, a toll road, was just as congested as other turnpikes one week after it commenced operation in late August, Andi said.

“Only investors and contractors will benefit from expanding road projects, while the people will suffer.”

“The city administration must focus on developing the mass transportation system and limiting the use and ownership of private vehicles to overcome traffic congestion.”

Jakarta has nearly 5.5 million cars, motorcycles, buses and trucks. On average, 269 private vehicles and 1235 motorcycles are purchased daily.

Jakarta roads, estimated to total 40 square kilometers, expand by less than 1 percent annually and can only accommodate 0.01 percent of all cars, according to City Public Works Agency head Wisnu Subagyo Yusuf.

According to Budi Kuntjoro, a project director at the Institute for Transportation Development and Policy, mass transportation is the key to solving traffic problems in big cities like Jakarta.

“There will never be enough roads to accommodate all the cars, even if they are continuously expanded.”

Fauzi said he planned to build underground roads and stacked, elevated roads like those in Tokyo, Japan, that reach up to five levels.

He said such roads, would help ease traffic congestion all over the capital as they did in Tokyo, apart from overpasses and underpasses he planned to build next year.

The elevated roads to be built would be linked to the existing inner city toll road and connect West, Central and East Jakarta, said Fauzi.

The elevated road project will cost an estimated Rp 21 trillion (US$2.25 billion), according to Fauzi.

However, he is yet to reveal the timeline for the project.

A transportation expert at the University of Indonesia, Bambang Susantono, said that—without doubt—just building more roads was not a sustainable solution to chronic congestion in the capital.

On the other hand, he said, sustainability was possible if new roads were part of a complete transportation scheme, feeding into bus lines, subways, and other systems.

He said it was important for the governor to determine the location of exits on the planned roads, as new roads to the center of Jakarta might do more harm than good.

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