October 3, 2023
JAKARTA – Work It Right is a weekly column that provides practical and insightful advice on the complexities of urban transportation.
Inefficient public transport and land use planning generate increased demand for private vehicles, creating traffic jams which lead to poor air quality, traffic injuries and fatalities and health risks, especially in areas experiencing rapid urbanization, like Jakarta.
While many policymakers acknowledge that traffic is a problem, they tend to focus on widening roads or constructing new highways, which, as has been evident for years, are not effective solutions.
Road widening and the construction of new highways has resulted in increased demand as more people tend to drive when the roads are less busy, as has been observed in several cases. However, in the long run, new roads will become congested because of this increased demand. New roads mean more cars and motorcycles.
The same thing also happens in the provision of parking lots.
Additional parking space in city centers will attract more private vehicles, as abundant parking space increases the convenience of door-to-door access. Without efforts to control the use of private motorized vehicles, the issue of traffic congestion and insufficient parking space will be perpetual.
To tame the traffic problem, cities must change their paradigm. They must consider traffic reduction strategies that prioritize people and their well-being and require drivers to consider external impacts, such as the environmental and societal costs of driving, as well as strategies to curb the use of vehicles and reduce traffic.
In Jakarta, external driving and the acute dependence on motorized vehicles creates traffic and detrimental impacts on urban mobility services and infrastructure.
Based on a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor survey conducted by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in 2022, there is a 28 percent speed difference between corridors with high sterility levels (corridor 6) when compared to low levels (corridor 8).
Another ITDP survey showed that forty-five percent of pedestrians face obstacles while walking on the sidewalk because of vehicles parked on the sidewalks, and 90 percent of the sidewalks are used for illegal parking by motorized vehicles. Other issues associated with transportation include air pollution, which causes at least 50 percent of the diseases in Indonesia, and loss of productive space potential, as one parking spot worth Rp 1 million (US$65.17) per month takes up as much space as one kiosk in Tanah Abang that is valued at Rp 9 million per month. Furthermore, 30 percent of traffic accident victims are pedestrians according to the Transportation Ministry.
Strategies to tame the traffic
Based on an ITDP report called Taming Traffic, there are several options, often described as measures that push (away from driving) and pull (toward sustainable transport) that work well together to provide viable alternatives to driving. The Taming Traffic strategy will focus more on examining “push” measures to reduce dependency on motorized vehicles, as demand for these vehicles grows. The measures include reallocating road space, increasing parking prices and designating zones with vehicle restrictions.
Reallocating road space means redesigning streets so that more space is dedicated to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.
Cities can implement pedestrianization, transit malls and complete street concepts. Prioritizing people over cars makes streets calmer, cleaner and safer for all road users.
If parking prices increase to reflect the actual costs of the space used, it becomes less desirable for people to drive and they are more likely to walk, cycle or use public transportation. Cities can apply on-street demand-based pricing, off-street parking maximums and commercial parking taxes.
Another strategy is designating zones with vehicle restrictions, such as Low Emission Zones (LEZs), congestion prices, which could be in the form of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) and limited traffic zones. This would restrict access to certain areas and charge vehicles a fee to enter others. Charging extra fees in this way would help reflect the actual cost of driving and decrease demand for private vehicles.
Parking management and vehicle restriction could create a source of revenue which could then be used to cover the operational costs of parking and vehicle restriction areas, and fund sustainable transport improvements.
For over a decade, Jakarta has been considering two fiscal-push traffic demand management strategies: ERP and increased parking rates.
However, to date, these have yet to be implemented. These strategies are not popular and face adverse political acceptance, it takes great courage from city leaders to implement them, or we will forever be stuck in the confines of endlessly worsening traffic jams.
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The writer is a senior communications and partnership manager at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).