ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Jakarta moves toward gridlock
Jakarta’s Jalan Sabang once teemed with pedestrians walking to a meal at one of the street’s many restaurants. Today, it’s a chaotic stretch of cars, motorcycles and three-wheelers tooting their horns as they jostle for space.
At peak hours, the two-way street in Central Jakarta is reduced to a single lane, with vehicles parked haphazardly. Drivers stay stuck for up to 20 minutes on a stretch that should take five.
It’s not yet as bad as it will be in 2014, when the capital faces the grim prospect of total gridlock, according to a recent report.
Indonesia’s booming economy powered by strong domestic consumption pushed car sales nationwide up 58 per cent last year from a year earlier.
The problem is particularly acute in the capital. There are currently 11.3 million vehicles in Jakarta, more than the official number of 9.6 million residents. The number of privately owned vehicles here grows by 9.5 per cent every year, while the road network expands by 0.01 per cent. Traffic jams cost Jakarta Rp 28.1 trillion rupiah ($3.2 billion) yearly in fuel costs, lost productivity and health costs, according to the Transportation Ministry.
The authorities are studying solutions, including limiting the number of cars during peak hours and building more roads, but these are unlikely to have long-term impact. ‘In the short term, there will be a smoother traffic flow but the congestion will pile up again if car population is not reduced,’ said transport analyst Darmaningtyas, who has studied traffic in congested cities like Bangkok. He cited the Singapore model and said the authorities should improve public transport to persuade Jakartans to rely less on cars.
The Jakarta administration said it is beyond its authority to instruct carmakers to sell fewer cars. It didn’t help that the administration had to call off a major monorail project this week because of financing problems.
Public transportation right now in Jakarta is a hotchpotch of trains, buses, minivans, three-wheelers, cabs and motorcycle taxis. An international survey by Frost and Sullivan this year gave Jakarta the dubious honor of having the most uncomfortable experience for commuters.
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