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JAKARTA - Traffic and ground transportation have become major headaches for residents of Jakarta. The city administration has failed to deal with the chaotic traffic that clogs the capital's streets, and an integrated transportation system offering safe and fast mass rapid transit remains but a dream. The Jakarta Post's Soeryo Winoto discussed the issue with Jakarta-based urban transportation expert Djamester Simarmata.

Question: How do you see the current traffic and ground transportation system in Jakarta?

Answer: The system is chaotic from the point of view of both structure and infrastructure. For road users the transportation system and traffic is like a jungle, where the bigger creatures (buses, trucks) are the "winners" and there is nothing to stop them. The (traffic) regulations have been corrupted. The city administration never planned a proper road network system based on a certain pattern. There is no continuing road network system in the city.
The total road surface (in Jakarta) is just about 6 percent of the width of the city. The roads in Tokyo are 25 percent, Washington 23 percent and Paris 20 percent of the width of the cities. In all cities in the world public transportation is a public service, whose operation depends on a government subsidy. In some countries the subsidy reaches about 70 percent. In several cities in France public transportation is considered part of human rights. It is the citizens' right to get to their places of work to make ends meet. We should adopt this paradigm.

Q: There has been an uncontrollable increase in the number of vehicles on the road. Is it possible to limit the ownership of cars in Jakarta?

A: Limitation based on the age of vehicles would be an unpopular policy. In some other countries in Europe older vehicles are allowed to operate but they must be road worthy. And if the government wants to limit the ownership of vehicles my first question would be, has the government managed public transportation well? If public transportation is still inferior, limiting the ownership of cars would violate human rights. I have said that the government should first improve the public transportation system, which is a basic need of the citizens.
At the recent World Sustainable Development summit in Johannesburg it was recommended that things relating to the basic needs of people, including public transportation, be given priority. Ibu Megawati (Soekarnoputri) was also there, but afterward she recommended the construction of new toll roads at home.

Q: Do the law enforcers contribute to the chaotic traffic?

A: One of the traffic problems is the law enforcers. Bribery is rampant on the streets. The other factors are drivers (of private and public transportation vehicles). City bus drivers routinely violate traffic regulations as a result of poor law enforcement. The daily rent agreement between the bus owners, including the state, and the drivers also contributes to the drivers ignoring public safety on the streets. It's time to review the daily rent deal. The deal only leads to what I call an "ultra-market system", where everybody and everything is money oriented.

Q: The need for an integrated transportation system, including a mass rapid transit (MRT) system, was initially voiced in the 1980s but so far the government has yet to take concrete steps to implement the idea. Why?

A: It's a question of the interests of the related ministries. Each ministry has been competing to handle and control the integrated transportation system project. In the 1980s I wrote an article about the priority of an urban road network. I said that toll roads were the option taken after we could not construct new artery roads for some reason.
Why don't we just widen the existing artery roads instead of constructing new toll roads? Toll roads are supposed to ease traffic congestion, but practically they cause congestion at other spots. The construction of toll roads encourages people to buy cars.

Q: Uncertain zoning plans and their poor implementation have been cited as major contributors to the traffic chaos. How do you see this?

A: There was no clear zoning plan from the beginning and the implementation (of the plan) has obviously contradicted what was on paper. There should have been detailed data on the ownership of property, including trees. The data would enable the city administration to compensate the owners once it started a development project that requires people's property. Those in charge of zoning lack discipline. There is no open space left for children to play in this metropolis. All vacant spaces have been used for business purposes.

Q: What kind of integrated transportation system does Jakarta really need at this time?

A: The entire existing transportation system must be reviewed. There must be a transformation of mode of transportation; smaller, medium and bigger based on the areas where they operate. A connecting network among bus terminals is required to help passengers get transportation to their final destination.
Financially, a ticketing system is the best choice. Passengers must buy a one-way ticket, valid for one hour, to go from one place to another. The passengers must buy another ticket for another one-hour trip. Owners of public transportation must be treated as contractors hired by the city administration. Mass rapid transit (MRT) is part of an integrated system. It's time for the city administration to get an MRT system because the existing bus system can no longer transport sufficient numbers of passengers.

Q: It is obvious that the city administration has no clear plan to handle traffic problems, so it can hardly be expected that it would have a plan for an integrated transportation system. Your comment?

A: Jakarta needs a national concept for this issue. The central government's interference is required. There must be a multiministerial move to make the capital city's transportation and traffic systems more humane and orderly. A total overhaul of the whole system is a must. Road users, including drivers, must improve their discipline, the authorities must guarantee the safety of public transportation passengers and the owners of public bus companies must review their existing managerial systems.

Q: What do you think is the role of the railway service in an integrated transportation system?

A: The service of electric commuter trains (plying the Jakarta-Bogor-Tangerang-Bekasi) routes must be improved. These trains, which can take large numbers of passengers, are a cheap mode of transportation for the people. They are also pollution free. Air pollution in Jakarta is reaching alarming levels. And trains are a safe means of transportation. For the time being, the trains can serve as an MRT.

Posted in Human rights @ 02 November 2002 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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