May 27, 2009

Sustainable Transportation System Needed in Jakarta

Paralyzing traffic jams and severe air pollution are the most frequent answers when people are asked what they know about Jakarta. Motorized vehicle ownerships increase in line with a rise in income per capita.

The more raises, the more cars and motorcycles are on roads. Motorized vehicle ownership is growing at 9 percent every year, with more than 1,500 new registrations being filed a day for motorcycles and 500 a day for cars.

There are diverse reasons that drive Jakartans to own cars or motorbikes, such as the symbol of power or wealth it offers, privacy, etc. This phenomenon is unavoidable but should be well-managed in order to have a more user-friendly and livable Jakarta.

Solving the problem of traffic congestion through an integrated sustainable transportation system is the main concern of the Jakarta government and citizenry nowadays.

It involves economic considerations (transportation system that supports economic growth), social considerations (transportation system that takes into account not only technical engineering but also social engineering) and environmental aspects (transportation system that is environmental friendly) and can be narrowed down to a push-and-pull strategy.

Some people consider building more roads the best solution to traffic congestion in Jakarta. However, once a new road is built it amazingly attracts more traffic.

Drivers are incredibly sensitive to changes in traffic conditions as mentioned by author Tom Vanderbilt (2008). They can easily adapt to road network changes. A new highway might be a relief for drivers who wanted alternative roads, but it will bring more and more drivers afterwards.

Seoul and Jakarta have similarities in terms of density and congestion. Therefore, it is very interesting to learn how Seoul introduced transportation reform to create a more user-friendly city.

Up to 2003, the Seoul metropolitan government kept building new roads, underpasses, overpasses and freeways equaling 8,000 km in length to cope with more than 30 million commutes per day.

However, this did not solve the problem of congestion as people continued to buy cars due to the availability of more roads.

Lee Myung-bak a.k.a. “Mr. Bulldozer”, the former mayor of Seoul and now the president of South Korea, reformed Seoul’s transportation system by using the “push-and-pull” strategy.

The strategy to “push” Seoul’s citizens out of their cars was conducted through a reduction in the number of roads, such as the Cheonggyecheon highway demolition in 2003.

It restored 5.8 kilometers of waterway and historical pedestrian bridges, created extensive green space and continues to promote public art installations.

Seoul’s transportation reform did not stop there. The Seoul metropolitan government had the courage to transform a big junction in front of Seoul Plaza into a huge pedestrian square in 2004.

By limiting traffic flow, it has reduced passenger car usage. The government also introduced the “Leave your car at home once-a-week campaign” as part of the Transportation Demand Management policy.

Car owners who choose to leave their cars at home once a week get a sticker stating the day of the week the car is to be kept off the road and in return the car owner gets a 10 percent tax cut. To pull people onto public transportation, the Seoul metropolitan government constructed the 14.5 km Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in 2003, which serves the route of the freeway.

The BRT system was also integrated with the existing subway system so as to cut the use of private vehicles. It is 536 km in length and serves more than 4.5 million passengers per day.

In 2004, Jakarta built a Bus Rapid Transit system, namely the busway operated by TransJakarta. The busway has the potential to change the city’s immobilizing congestion to one of mobility.

One bus carries 85 to 160 passengers at maximum capacity, resulting in lower emission per capita compared to private car drivers. From January to April 2009, there was an average of 230,000 busway passengers on weekdays.

The Jakarta administration keeps improving the busway’s level of service in order to create an efficient city with clean air and reliable and comfortable transportation.

Being a safe, reliable and comfortable mass transportation mode is not enough for the busway. It must also be well-integrated with other transportation modes. Busway stops should be integrated with other modes of public transportation, such as electric trains.

Other infrastructure facilities that need to be taken into account are good pedestrian access, which means improving roadside footpaths, providing parking facilities for non-motorized vehicles, like bicycles, especially at main terminals. Integration with other transportation modes and strong land use planning will help reduce congestion.

Moreover, the government cannot move alone to realize an integrated transportation system. It should welcome all elements, including the private sector, to support the system in various roles.

For instance, busway user groups have been involved in a public education campaign by promoting lifestyle changes, such as taking public transportation on a daily basis, to create a more user-friendly and livable city.

In addition, the private sector could encourage employees to take public transportation not only for cost efficiency but also for environmental purposes.

For example, some companies have introduced a “Go Green” policy by providing bicycle parking on their premises for employees who cycle from home. Other companies have arranged employee carpools or telecommuting in which employees can work from home on particular days.

An advertisement in Germany states “You are not stuck in a traffic jam. You are the traffic jam”. As part of a traffic jam, motorists limit other’s access and cause pollution. Therefore, having an integrated public transportation system that is complemented by strong attention to the quality of service is the answer to turn Jakarta into a more user-friendly and livable city.

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Sustainable Transportation System Needed in Jakarta

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