Jerom Theunissen Photography


November 28-December 2

City in Context

Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia with a population of well over 10 million. Jakarta is split into five administrative cities: North, South, East, West and Central. Growth of the city over the past decades are unprecedented: a total area of 664 square kilometers in 1960 ballooned to 5,500 square kilometers in 2001, consuming the neighboring cities of Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi. Thus, the Greater Jakarta metropolitan area is today known as Jabodetabek – a name formed by combining the initial syllables of Jakarta and the cities swallowed up by urban sprawl. The region is home to a whopping 30 million people, making it the second largest urban agglomeration behind Tokyo. 

So many flock to the capital due to the opportunity Jakarta offers. Economic growth rates are double the national average. With this influx of new residents and limited supply, the housing price in the center of Jakarta, forcing many middle- and lower-income people to live in the urban fringe areas of Jabodetabek. In older parts of the city, it is not uncommon to see squatters living in what is known as “kampungs,” informal settlements where a mixture of lower- and middle-class families live and work. Renters and squatters who have managed to set up homes are gradually being squeezed out by the government due to skyrocketing land prices and speculation. Sadly, the past 20 years saw the land area occupied by kampungs in Jakarta reduced by 50 per cent, with nearly half of the families have been relocated to Jakarta’s outlining areas (source). These relocation efforts are being fought against by scholars and journalists alike, advocating that the kampungs are dynamic pieces of Jakarta’s urban fabric.

The growing affluence and rapid pace of urbanization has given rise to multiple problems such as floods (the city is literally sinking) and socioeconomic and spatial inequality. Jakarta was once a city of economically mixed neighborhoods, but the desire for security, lifestyle, and convenience — together with the push by developers for profitable all-inclusive developments — has meant increasingly spatial separation from other social and economic groups within gated estates, apartment towers, shopping malls and private vehicles. The urban poor and middle class must live further away from job centers, increasing trip distances that are often inaccessible or expensive by mass transport, leaving motorcycles and automobiles as the only option for many Jakartans.

In this context, it is no surprise that traffic is the source of most complaints for Jakartans. The traffic situation is so bad that the people need to adjust their schedules around it. The city is estimated to lose US$3 billion a year because of traffic congestion, which is linked to the high growth rate of private vehicle ownership, inadequate road development, and sprawl. Alternative modes of public transport such as the LRT and MRT is currently under planning and construction. The city took a bold first step in 2004 with the TransJakarta BRT system, but far more infrastructure and data-driven transport and land-use policies are needed to inform the creation of a more livable Jakarta.

The purpose of visiting Jakarta was to see first-hand the scale of the mobility and livability problems faced in one of the world’s megacities. I spoke with three people from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) Indonesia office to learn about strategic directions they are taking to inform more livable transport in Jakarta.

TransJakarta- Indonesia's Best BRT

One of ITDP’s signature projects has been the construction of the Transjakarta BRTsystem, representing a breakthrough in transport planning paradigms in the city,and indeed, Asia. On January 15, 2004, the TransJakarta busway began operations along a 12.9 km corridor through the city center, making it the first BRT system in Asia. The line cost a mere USD $2M/km and was implemented in an unprecedented 9 months, following a visit by Jakarta’s Governor Sutiyoso to the BRT system in Bogotá, South America in May 2003. The backing of the project by a political champion allowed the project to be implemented swiftly and efficiently.

As the system grew, ridership increased dramatically as the city government upgraded buses, added new routes and corridors. The introduction of a smartcard fare payment system and the expansion of service to direct routes led to the only dip in ridership in 2015, due to the lack of integration with informal operators. Some passengers had to pay twice, and was rectified in January of 2016. Since then, growth has ballooned from 102.9 million riders per year to 189.7 million riders, a nearly 85% increase. Gandrie Ramadhan, a transport associate at ITDP, told me this increase is largely due to the expansion from 70 to 113 routes during that same year.

After 15 years of service, Transjakarta has continued to prove its relevance. Source: Jakarta Post

From the project’s beginnings to today, ITDP has consistently worked with Transjakarta and multiple agencies to ensure Transjakarta keeps punching above its weight. In 2015, ITDP called for Transjakarta changing from a government agency to a city-owned company, which will seek to use more savvy business practices to lure more people to take buses and lower operating costs. In 2017, ITDP aided the development of the Greater Jakarta Transport Authority’s plan for physical integrations between commuter rail services, LRT, MRT, and BRT at several locations. Following this engagement, the authority made a commitment to create physical integrations at 17 commuter railway stations located near Transjakarta BRT stations within two years. In early 2019, ITDP also called for integrated governance of transport in the greater Jakarta region by combining transportation services offices across greater Jakarta with the Greater Jakarta Transportation Management Body (source).

TransJakarta's extensive network serves several outlying areas of Jakarta. Image source: Flickr user Fagra Hanif

Today, TransJakarta’s success is a model that offers lessons for cities around the world. I reckon it can go further, especially if seamless integration with new MRT and LRT modes is fully realized.

To read more about TransJakarta's achievements and future directions, click here.

Non-Motorized Transport in Jakarta – Missed Opportunities

Every trip starts and ends as a pedestrian. In Jakarta, the state of non-motorized transport infrastructure is limited in both quantity and quality. Designated pedestrian crossings are largely ignored by drivers who ignore the presence of pedestrians.Multiple times I had to brave crossing the road by raising my hand and hope that cars and motorcycles would swerve around me. Sidewalks are sometimes obstructed by street vendors, telephone booths, uneven surfaces, and parked cars and motorcycles. These conditions force pedestrians into the congested street.Cyclists have no dedicated lanes and must contend with mixed traffic on the street.

One of the major reasons that more people in Jakarta do not use public transportation is the poor quality of pedestrian facilities. As such, proper NMT facilities can be an integral part of ensuring a safe multi-modal journey.I spoke with Udayalaksmanakartiyasa Halim about the provision of NMT facilities around Transjakarta stations.  Udaya told me this has been demanded since the initiation of the 1st corridor of Jakarta BRT. Although several improvements have been scattered around some stations (see below), there is still lack of integration between BRT and both pedestrian and bicycle as the main mode of NMT transport in Jakarta. ITDP Indonesia is currently working on two NMT projects, Greenwaysand a Bike Share system, in an effort to to improve pedestrian and cycling infrastructure for a more equitable and comfortable mobility system.

Parting Thoughts

A visit to Jakarta was a must see. I just scratched the surface of what was being done about the city’s notoriously bad traffic congestion and dilapidated infrastructure. However, I was encouraged by Transjakarta’s rising popularity, and a generally more widespread acceptance of public transport in the city. It will be interesting to see if the city can springboard from Transjakarta’s success when the new MRT and LRT lines begin operations in 2019, also known by officials as the “year of integration.” By 2030, Jakarta has ambitious plans to realize a 60% mode share for public transportation, more than double the current 24% figure. These noble aims should foremost focus on improving the journey experience, door-to-door to lure Jakartans off of their motorcycles and private cars. This will mean better non-motorized transport facilities around public transport nodes as well. 

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