A break in Jakarta will not be complete without a post on Jakarta’s wonderful traffic.
1. Yesterday we went back from Central Park at 7pm. This is partly to avoid the 3-in-1 rule in Gajah Mada-Hayam Wuruk, and partly to avoid the heavy traffic after office hour. Indeed, the traffic was pretty smooth, and I could reach home pretty fast. Of course, it means that if you wanted to work in the city, the trade-off would be to go home a bit late to avoid the heavy traffic. You reach home around 8pm and then have your dinner. You could perhaps make peace with this arrangement of going home later, but it does not solve the problem of leaving for work very early in Jakarta, especially if you live in the suburb.
2. The number of motorcycles in Jakarta is nine millions and counting. The number for 2009 was 7.5 millions. So there is a 20% increase or 1.5 millions motorcycles more in Jakarta within one year. The number of four-wheel vehicles, on the other hand, is 2.7 millions and its growth is significantly lower. The ratio between them changes, and the traffic dynamic changes as well. The motorcycles dictate the traffic now, rather than the cars. So we negotiate to the way they go and behave. I like to think of it as some kind of perichoresis (dance).
3. The exponential growth of motorcycles in Jakarta is due to several factors. The people is not satisfied with the public transport. On the other hand, they could not afford to buy cars. So, the easy and neat solution is to buy motorcycles. It is further stimulated by the fact that it is very easy to apply for motorcycle loan. You could get a new vehicle with a down payment of a mere 500k Rupiahs (S$71.5). Even if it ends in credit default, let say in three or six months, you could consider it as the fee to rent a vehicle for the period of time. Then you would proceed to buy another one, as many dealers won’t really care with your track record and will be very happy to loan you a new motorcycle. Not to mention that the more sales these dealers have, the provincial government will rack up rupiahs from the sales tax.
4. In this case, actually the provincial government can imitate what the Singapore government do to control the number of vehicles on the road. It can simply increase astronomically the provincial sales tax for motorcycles and cars. Although I guess it will succumb to the pressure of the dealers as an increase in sales tax spells doom for them (move to other provinces, can?). Or that the provincial government itself enjoys so much money now from the sales tax such that it won’t really bother reflecting about this issue. Not to mention that it can be bribed to forever renew the license for vehicles which should have been prohibited years ago because of their age and condition.
5. On the other hand, to put it positively, it could also encourage public transport as the major means of transport in Jakarta. And, for now, Busway is the answer given by the provincial government to solve the perennial problem of traffic in Jakarta. The problem of Busway is it occupies 1/3 or 1/4 of the road such that at least it needs to serve 1/3 or 1/4 of the total number of passengers to match its allocated road length. I do hope that the situation regarding Busway could become better in the future, as the people would grow to trust the system if the government did show its seriousness in investing in this mode of transport. The key is maintenance, as the track record of Indonesians in this matter is very poor. We can build, but we can’t sustain. So I guess it takes time to grow this mutual trust. I confess that I am guilty in this matter, as I take Busway very rare, although it only takes me around 10 mins to go to Kalideres (K3.17) or Pesakih (K3.16). Yeah, Boon Lay in Singapore, Kalideres in Jakarta. Same, old story: end of the world.
(Failed sign seen on the back of a busway: “Take the busway, no it’s way.” I guess what they really want to say is to “take the busway, not its way”, as people loves to enter the busway line if there is no police around. The rule in Jakarta is “break the rule safely.”)
6. Unfortunately, despite of huge increase of number of vehicles in Jakarta, it is not accompanied in the same amount of increase in road length. And everyone know what this means. To be fair, not much can be added to the already saturated network, aside from more and more flyovers. Perhaps in the future we will witness multiple-stories flyovers. That would be a breakthrough in civil engineering. But then it begs the question of why now we keep adding number of vehicles liberally despite of the inherent limitations of road length in Jakarta. And I do realize that the answer is money.
7. Another thing is U-turn. Roads in Jakarta have lots of U-turn, and I just notice that they significantly slow the traffic down, as the vehicles need to slow down every time they face a U-turn. Well, it is due to the road network in Jakarta itself, where you would find small streets all over the place, such that these U-turns will be very helpful to reach these small streets. Hence, somehow I believe that if we could make peace with less number of U-turns, the traffic will be slightly better.
8. Some people really like to swirl around when they drive. As Beyoncé would say, to the left, to the left. Or, correspondingly, to the right, to the right. For God’s sake, stay in your lane! Although, honestly, sometimes I do imagine of roads in Jakarta as a huge racing track, where you need to race other cars to reach the destination first. It is perhaps counter-intuitive, but this attitude is actually slowing the traffic down.
9. I will not discuss the attitude of the Kopajas and Metrominis, as I have handed them over to Satan. Anyway, seriously, I do believe that the situation can be made better (slightly) if the road users are willing to work together and behave better on the road. Sometimes we put the blame too much on the provincial government (which they deserve!) without actually realizing that we contribute to the problem as well.
(PS: Could we ban Bajaj once and for all? It is slow yet it occupies the whole lane.)