The Guardian – With four hours in traffic not unusual, Jakarta is searching for solutions.
Attracted by the air-conditioning and the status, many of the 3.5 million people who commute into the hot and humid Indonesian capital come by car. With four hours in traffic not unusual, Jakarta is searching for solutions.
The average Jakartan spends 10 years of their life in traffic, wrote novelist Seno Gumira Ajidarma, and you don’t have to spend long in the Indonesian capital to believe it.
Three and a half million people a day commute into this hot and humid city from the wider metropolitan area of Greater Jakarta and many come by car, attracted by the status and the air-conditioning. Their cars, though, are motionless in macet (gridlock) during most of the 5am to 8am and 5pm to 8pm rush hours, and for much of the day.
Jakarta was named the world city with the worst traffic in one index last year based on satellite navigation data, which found the average driver starting and stopping more than 33,000 times in a year. An estimated 70% of the city’s air pollution comes from vehicles.
It typically takes two hours to drive 25 miles to the centre from Bogor, the largest of the satellite cities, where many office workers live. A bad journey can take three hours. As cars idle in endless queues, scooters slalom past, missing by inches. It seems there are often more passengers on the bikes than in the cars.
Efforts to reduce car use are limited to an odd/even scheme on the main thoroughfare of Sudirman and few other key routes during rush hour: vehicles with odd numbered plates are allowed on odd dates, with even plates on even dates. Odd/even came in after a three-in-one car-pooling rule was scrapped in April after years of abuse. “Jockeys” would stand at the side of the road, offering themselves for rent so the driver could get the required two passengers; many were children, who took huge risks getting into the vehicles of strangers.
With the population of Greater Jakarta expected to increase from about 30 million today to more than 40 million by 2040 , wasting hours trapped in traffic looks set to become even more of a daily frustration for residents. Is Jakarta destined to be jammed forever, or does the city have an alternative?
Scooter city: ‘You can get anything delivered by bike here’
“Motorbikes are twice the speed of a car in Jakarta, they use a 10th of the fuel, are a 10th of the cost and use far less space,” says Nadiem Makarim, founder and chief executive of Go-Jek, the city’s two-wheeled version of Uber. “Motorbikes are much more efficient. There’s no reason for cars to exist in this city at all.”
Since Makarim’s company revolutionised the motorcycle taxi – or ojek – industry with the launch of a smartphone app last year, numbers have risen dramatically. Along with Malaysian rival Grab, and Uber’s Motor service, they have driven down fares – to the anger of some drivers.
The app has been downloaded 25 million times. As well as getting around, customers can get a massage therapist or a cleaner delivered to their door within 90 minutes. His food delivery business is now Asia’s largest outside China, and the Go-Jek also offers makeovers, theatre tickets, flowers, prescription medicines …