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Jakarta's transport is daunting not hopeless

Jakarta's urban transport problems are epic and this metropolis of 24 million people seems an unlikely place to look for lessons, except maybe cautionary ones.

But Yoga Adiwinarto, ITDP’s Country Director for Indonesia, wants you to know there is progress. In fact, there are lessons for other large cities in middle-income countries to learn from.

Yoga and I discussed urban transport in Jakarta for Reinventing Transport episode #14. 

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Here are highlights of our conversation 

  • I asked Yoga to 'paint a picture' of Jakarta, urban transport challenges and what it feels like to move around the city. [1:45]
  • The challenges are huge but there have been improvements, to public transport for example. [6:58]
  • The TransJakarta BRT started well in 2004, faced a very rough patch about five years later (a series of buses even caught fire!). [8:30]
Among many other things, ITDP Indonesia has been helping Jakarta improve pedestrian access to its TransJakarta BRT stations. 
  • Several important reforms to TransJakarta this decade have resulted in huge improvements and dramatic ridership increases. For example, there was a shift to better quality buses that are properly designed for Bus Rapid Transit use. Governance was improved via corporatization. TransJakarta is no longer a city government agency and is now a city-owned company which contracts with various bus operating companies and cooperatives which operate the actual services. The BRT route philosophy also changed from a purely closed BRT approach to a 'direct service concept' in which BRT buses fan out beyond the BRT corridors. [13:04]
  • Yoga argued that a mindset change also helped. There was much more official effort to improve the system after the focus shifted to improving public transport conditions for existing users rather than worrying too much about how to entice car-users onto the system. [17:52]
  • Nevertheless, the opening this year of the first 16 km phase of the first Metro (MRT) line has made more car users open to trying public transport and, anecdotally, the positive image is rubbing off on the BRT to some extent as way to connect to the Metro, since the two systems are quite well integrated. So not closing TransJakarta Corridor 1 seems to have been a wise decision, despite the fact that it partially duplicates the MRT [20:00] 
  • We discussed the issue of keeping private vehicles out of TransJakarta's dedicated bus lanes. It is an ongoing problem but, for various reasons, Yoga was optimistic that such incursions are declining. 
KRL Tokyo Metro 5817F 10-car
A train set of the KRL Commuterline (also called KRL Jabodetabek) suburban rail system. 
  • We then turned to the electrified suburban rail system (KRL Commuterline) which has been improved dramatically and is now an important part of the public transport system. A new and more effective ticketing system, a simpler set of services and higher frequencies have enabled a large jump in ridership in recent years. [23:07] 
  • Yoga shared an anecdote that some in Jakarta have unrealistic expectations that the MRT will solve traffic congestion. This led to a discussion of what else needs to happen, including walkability improvements and more attention to travel demand management. [25:44]
  • The mention of walkability reminded me to ask about ITDP's recent efforts to improve conditions in Jakarta's low-income 'kampung kota' or urban village areas. This was the subject of a recent webinar [28:08]
  • We ended with a look at some of ITDP's current priorities and hopes for Jakarta. Yoga's emphasized the demand side. This brought us to both and road pricing and parking management (by the way, Reinventing Parking this month will feature Yoga and I talking about parking in Jakarta). An Electronic Road Pricing scheme is in the works and I was not surprised to hear that it seems to be stalled for now. However, I WAS surprised to hear that procurement difficulties are the hold-up and that public opposition is not the main problem. It seems Jakarta motorists are used to paying tolls on toll roads, so congestion pricing is not too controversial. We will see if that remains the case if the proposal advances further. [32:17] 

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More Information on Yoga Adiwinarto and ITDP Indonesia

Yoga is Southeast Asia Director and Indonesia Country Director for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

Yoga has been with ITDP since 2009, initially as transport specialist managing the BRT improvement in Jakarta and Pekanbaru. Over the last three years he has worked on public transport planning and operational, Demand Management, Pedestrian improvement as well as some management and financial aspects of BRT operation. He was involved in planning and preparing the operation, tender and contracts for the opening of the last three BRT corridors in Jakarta, which is now the longest BRT system in the world.

Yoga holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Institute Technology Bandung, and a master’s degree in Transport Planning from Leeds University, England, where he spent three years working in transport consultancy firm after finishing his degree.

Learn more about ITDP Indonesia here.


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