Last week, the Jakarta Globe reported on the ongoing construction work of two elevated roads: 5.5 kilometers from Jalan Antasari to Blok M and 2.3 kilometers from Jalan Casablanca to Jalan Sudirman. City officials said the work could be completed as early as August and the roads were expected to ease traffic density in the area by half.
Really? No. Elevating roads is no long-term solution to traffic woes and will only make affected areas less attractive to live in.
Traffic congestion in Jakarta can’t be separated from the high growth rate of vehicle ownership (9 to 11 percent per year), which is not supported by the growth of road development (less than 1 percent a year). The development of new roads will never catch up to the growth rate of vehicle ownership. A new highway or a widened road only alleviates traffic congestion for a short period of time.
After a few years, any new or widened highway fills with traffic that would not have existed if the highway had not been built, a phenomenon called induced demand. Because of induced demand, neither building new roads nor widening existing roads are viable long-term solutions to traffic congestion.
The new roads will also undermine the efforts to develop a mass transportation system in Jakarta. The main idea of developing a mass transportation system, including the TransJakarta busway and the monorail and Mass Rapid Transit projects, is to reduce the number of motorists and motorcyclists on Jakarta’s streets. Drivers would be expected to use the mass transportation and reduce traffic, but new roads would only attract more motorists.