Yearender 2022: Two steps forward, one step back for Jakarta public transportation

Resuming normalcy after the pandemic, residents have found themselves dealing again with one of the capital's perennial problems: heavy traffic.

Fikri Harish

Fikri Harish

The Jakarta Post


Vehicles travel on busy roads in Jakarta on March 29.(AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

December 28, 2022

JAKARTA – As Jakarta resumes normal service in 2022 with the worst of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, the capital’s 10 million residents, plus 18 million more from the surrounding satellite cities, have found themselves dealing again with one of the city’s perennial problems: heavy traffic.

While the Jakarta Transportation Agency was quick to pat itself on the back when the TomTom Traffic Index showed that the capital’s congestion level in 2021 was 34 percent, down from 36 percent in 2020 and 53 percent in 2019, recent data shows that the pandemic was largely to thank for the decrease.

The abundance of privately owned cars is still a major problem, with data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS) showing a sizable increase in the number of cars over the past few years, 4.1 million in 2021 compared to 3.3 million in 2019.

In response to the congestion, the city has undertaken several projects meant to improve the quality of public transportation and increase ridership.

This year, the TransJakarta bus service began refurbishing older stops. Tackling the issue of integrated transportation, the JakLingko transportation payment system, meanwhile, started offering cheaper integrated fare for multi-mode commutes using TransJakarta buses, the commuter line (KRL) and MRT.

But while the initiatives are steps in the right direction, their execution leaves plenty of room for improvements.

Style over substance

Of the revitalization projects TransJakarta has completed this year, the new Hotel Indonesia (HI) traffic circle and Tosari bus stops in Central Jakarta have garnered the most headlines – and not for the reasons TransJakarta may have hoped. While the new two-story bus stops, modeled after cruise ships, provide photo spots for tourists on their open-air viewing decks, commuters have criticized the renovations for failing to meet their needs.

“The bus stop is a bit longer, but it hasn’t been made wider, and the stairs to the second floor actually make it even tighter [than before],” said Astrid Natasha, 27, who works at a nearby office building.

She said TransJakarta seemed to be spending money on vanity projects when there were other bus stops in dire need of renovation, citing the Podomoro City bus stop as an example.

The bus stop has remained cramped and narrow even as the Podomoro City superblock has grown into a behemoth.

“It’s really small, so it’s always packed during rush hour, and the smoke from the traffic makes waiting there uncomfortable,” Astrid said.

The Podomoro City bus stop, like others along the Corridor 9 route between Pinang Ranti and Pluit, is sandwiched between the Jakarta Inner-City Toll Road and the busy arterial Jl. S. Parman, and is only equipped with a single gate despite the high levels of ridership there.

Lines at the exit

While TransJakarta previously allowed multiple passengers to use a single card, a new rule went into effect in October that requires one card per passenger. Commuters now must tap their cards again as they exit, which passengers say has created long lines at bus stops, especially those with only one gate to be used for both entry and exit.

The policy has caused long lines at the Podomoro City bus stop during the evening rush hour, with photos shared on social media showing queues extending all the way to the pedestrian bridge above.

The tap out requirement is meant to complement the distance-based integrated tariffs that the government has implemented across the MRT, KRL and TransJakarta services. Intermodal integration has been a key focus this year, with the government conducting several projects intended to better integrate the different modes of public transportation within the city, including by building one single hub, called the CSW, in Kebayoran Baru as a pilot project.

Early this year, the CSW was opened, formally connecting the MRT ASEAN Station with several TransJakarta bus stops.

Recently, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo inaugurated the first phase of the Manggarai Station revitalization project, which he described as “the country’s busiest train station”.

Already serving as an exchange point for several KRL lines, the project aims to turn Manggarai Station into the city’s railway hub and integrate intercity trains, the Railink airport trains and the KRL under one roof, with TransJakarta buses serving commuters in and out of the station. In the future, Jakarta Light Rail Transit (LRT) also plans to extend its current Kelapa Gading-Velodrome route to Manggarai.

But while these integration projects have been well received, TransJakarta commuters say the current tap-out requirements have strained the existing infrastructure.

Long wait times

The crowding at bus stops is compounded by long wait times, especially now that bus tracking has become increasingly unreliable.

“I’ve often had to wait more than 30 minutes for the bus, and they tend to be packed,” said 32-year-old Billy Atmaja, who regularly commutes between Kalideres and Slipi for work.

Even if Google Maps says a bus will arrive every 10 minutes and the screen inside the bus stop in Slipi says the bus is five minutes away, Billy said, that rarely proved to be true. In his experience, more than five buses serving the busier Corridor 9 route could pass through the bus stop before he saw a single Corridor 3F bus, which serves the Gelora Bung Karno-Kalideres route he usually takes.

While TransJakarta continues to see an increase in ridership as more and more people head back into the office, the company’s infrastructure is struggling to meet the demand.

“Instead of providing subsidies for electric vehicles, they should’ve used that money to buy more buses,” said Billy, referring to the government’s plan to provide subsidies for locally manufactured electric vehicles.

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