JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has spoken.
"We cannot continue like this," the former Jakarta governor told a coordination meeting on Greater Jakarta traffic earlier last week.
He ordered Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, known to be a decisive, can-do leader, to deliver the task to reduce traffic congestion in the sprawling metropolis by integrating all modes of public transportation.
Jokowi aims to further promote public transportation in place of private cars, the growth of which far eclipses that of Jakarta's streets.
Jokowi is aware of one big obstacle to integrating the public transit modes: There are too many stakeholders defending different, if not conflicting, interests and policies. This year, two new systems - the MRT and the light rapid transit (LRT) - will begin serving the public.
Indeed, Jakarta has never crafted an overarching master plan on public transit.
Operators of Transjakarta buses, commuter trains, the MRT and LRT have their own plans that do not necessarily connect with each other.
Coordination between the Jakarta administration and Greater Jakarta cities like Bekasi and Tangerang is absent.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan was quick to claim he would take a leading role in the giant task.
Jakarta, he said, would take over 13 national roads in his bid to reduce traffic across the capital city.
Jokowi's command sums up the will of policymakers under him.
That the head of government has ordered all to "be brave" in tackling Jakarta's traffic madness should mark an auspicious beginning of what many believe to be a new era.
Last month, Jakarta Transportation Agency head Sigit Widjatmiko promised that 2019 would be "transformational". "We call it the year of integration," he said.
Another authority, the Greater Jakarta Transportation Agency (BPTJ), also announced that 2019 would be special.
BPTJ head Bambang Prihartono said the MRT would serve as the backbone of future transportation in Jakarta, while other systems, including the popular commuter train and Transjakarta buses, play supporting roles.
Bambang, too, has integration in mind.
He said modes of transportation older than the MRT and LRT would need to be rerouted to avoid overlapping with the new services.
The smaller modes of transportation should serve as first- and last-mile public transportation providers, connecting residential areas with the stations.
The BPTJ is trying to make sure all modes of public transportation adopt the same e-money ticketing system to realise the integration policy.
This year, Transjakarta, a public transportation system Jakartans were slow to accept, will celebrate its 15th anniversary.
In 2004, when then-governor Sutiyoso introduced the busway, many doubted people would leave their cars at home to take Transjakarta buses.
Even after 15 years, and with hundreds more buses having strengthened the fleet, Transjakarta has yet to convince all doubters, but it is hard to imagine Jakarta without the buses.
Of course, Transjakarta cannot do it alone, but the integration of all public transportation hopefully can.
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