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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        28 January 2011

Jakarta gridlock worsens

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Commuters in Greater Jakarta are abandoning public transportation in droves in favor of private vehicles, an official said on Thursday, while the city's administration said it would take steps to ease traffic on congested Jalan Casablanca.

Jakarta Traffic Police Chief Sr. Comr. Royke Lumowa said the shift threatened to exacerbate traffic congestion and render the city's widely panned bus and train services obsolete.

"Commuters are increasingly choosing to use private vehicles rather than take public transport. If this keeps up, public transportation will soon cease to exist."

He cited a study done for the Jabodetabek Urban Transportation Policy Integration Project that showed the number of public transit users dropping by a quarter from 2002 through 2010.

In 2002, 38.3 percent of commuters used public transport, but by 2010, it had dropped to 19.3 percent.

At the start of the study period, 21.2 percent of commuters used a motorcycle, while 11.6 percent used a car. By the end of that period, those percentages had jumped to 48.7 for motorcyclists and 13.5 for drivers.

These statistics, Royke said, could be seen by the sheer volume of vehicles clogging the city's streets today.

"Every year an extra 600,000 to 900,000 new vehicles are registered in the city, 80 percent of them motorcycles," he said.

"By the end of 2010, there were eight million motorcycles alone in Jakarta."

The number of those traveling by foot or bicycle dropped from 23.7 percent in 2002 to 22.6 percent in 2010, despite the advent of community initiatives such as the Bike to Work movement and monthly car-free days on certain thoroughfares.

Royke blamed the exodus from public transport, which happened despite the introduction of the busway, on the declining standard of buses and trains.

"The high incidence of crime and discomfort inherent in public transportation, coupled with the worsening congestion, is what's making people turn to private transportation," he said.

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