Editorial Notes

Growing old on the road in Jakarta: The Jakarta Post

Vehicles commute on a road during afternoon rush hour in Jakarta.
Vehicles commute on a road during afternoon rush hour in Jakarta. PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial, the paper urges the government to speed up with solutions to resolve the capital's congestion problem.

Shortly after being installed as minister, Susi Pudjiastuti asked employees whether they would like to avoid the afternoon rush hour and start work earlier. 

The result: civil servants of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry start work at 7 am and leave at 3 pm to be with their families. Others slog some two weary hours on the journey to and from work. 

Flexible working hours, whether inside or outside the office, are among the most sensible measures compared to the daily gridlock every rush hour, which frequently lasts up to 10 pm. 

But few workplaces and residents have applied such measures — judging by the continued congestion, accumulated back pain, stress and smog, quite apart from the huge waste of time and money — despite the launch of the Transjakarta busway system in 2004 and gradually improved train services.

But as we have reported, the packed buses and trains and the snail-paced increase in public transportation have turned off many passengers — who have returned to using private vehicles again. 

In October the cheapest commuter train fares will go up 50 percent. Although rising to only Rp 3,000, (S$0.31) passengers are entitled to wonder whether this will mean safer and more comfortable trips. 

Solutions like flexible hours and carpooling should be adopted much more widely to support the policies that take ages to become effective. The idea of having students start school earlier was shot down, with many citing the prospect of increasingly sleepy kids who already have plenty of homework. 

The new odd-even vehicle license plate policy, which recently replaced the three-in-one system, is expected to ease traffic — particularly around construction for the Semanggi flyover and the belated mass rapid transit project. 

On Friday, Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama said the new policy was just one solution to Jakarta’s infamous traffic, but it was showing results already. “The month-long odd-even probation period has gone well. Vehicles have decreased by about 20 percent,” he said.

He said the odd-even policy would be followed by electronic road pricing (ERP) in rush hours. 

Some wonder whether Ahok is calculating a safe charge with an eye to next year’s gubernatorial election. 

His advisers might consider, for instance, that settling the ERP at Rp 100,000 to use the main thoroughfares might rapidly ease congestion — but could add fuel to the Ahok haters. 

However, as vehicles are estimated to increase by some 5,000 daily in the capital, people still sigh about “growing old on the road”. 

 Indonesians being Indonesians, we will find creative ways to skirt the odd-even policy too. Just have two different number plates, some say — as law enforcers are typically slow to catch up with cheaters. 

Therefore, while authorities should speed up the addition of more road and rail public transportation facilities, much more carpooling and flexible hours would help to reduce everyone’s stress. 

* The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 newspapers.