Jakarta has the worst traffic ("macet") in the world. (Well, depending on the year and the study, it could be the worst or merely the 12th worst or 22nd worst. But everyone agrees it's pretty horrific.)
The problem has been so bad for so long, adorable children at Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park were singing about being stuck again ("macet lagi") back in 1992:
For awhile, Jakarta tried a "3-in-1"policy that required a private car traveling on certain major roads at peak times to have three or more passengers. That led to "joki" who would rent themselves out as passengers to mee the quota, a risky situation for all. Even worse, it led to "joki" mothers carrying babies since they counted as two passengers. Yikes.
Partly because of these challenges, "3-in-1" was ended in May 2016. But it was soon replaced by a new "even-odd" policy. This has required a private car traveling on certain major roads at peak times to have an even-numbered license plate on even-numbered weekdays of the month or an odd-numbered license plate on odd-numbered weekdays of the month. The policy will be extended to even more roads in September, much to public dismay.
While I'm sure "even-odd" has reduced private car traffic at times, it has caused some households to get a second car to try for both even and odd plates. It has also made travel on days where your plate isn't favored sometimes take 2-3 times as long. Jakarta is often in the running for worst air pollution in the world. So more cars idling in traffic isn't good for anyone. We need a better solution.
We will likely live under "even-odd" until a congestion pricing system called Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) is put in place. ERP has been delayed for years, and the bidding process for it has just been canceled. The Attorney General's Office "recommended that the city administration cancel the bid on the grounds of an improper procurement process." Ahem.
On a brighter note, Jakarta Rapid Mass Transit (MRT) launched in March with an initial 13-station line. Nine more lines are planned. This is A Good Thing, and I plan to use the MRT when we move to our new home in September.
I'm conflicted about congestion pricing systems like ERP. One the one hand, it seems unfair that people with more money can use public roads more easily. At the same time, money from ERP could be used to help build out MRT lines and bus lines. Jakarta also desperately needs money to make the city more walkable. The New York Times notes that only 7 percent of the 4,500 miles of road have sidewalks. Many of those are narrow, crowded with motorcycles, and in poor condition.
For now, the macet continues. I sometimes hum the children's song in my head while sitting in traffic. It helps somehow!
Main blog post image by Nabeel Syed.