Traffic Congestion in Jakarta – Get back to Basics.

Anyone who has been to Jakarta will experience first hand its famous traffic jams. It is a sheer test of patience and heat. You are literally sitting in your motionless vehicle; waiting for what seems like hundreds of vehicles ahead of you to move forward. You are sandwiched between cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes and street peddlers. The only way out is to follow the herd in front of you, moving slowly in a timeless motion till you are out of this vicious traffic congestion.

Endless suggestions have been made, proposals have been put forward and some implemented to ease this traffic woes, but unfortunately without much success. The government has implemented car pools, dedicated bus lanes, road widening and the grandest and most expensive project of all – to built a Mass Rail Transit system (MRT).
Indonesians blame the current traffic woes on many factors – red tape, corruption, poor implementation and controls, poor urban and development planning, etc. Many people just don’t care anymore and simply adjust their lives to this misery.

If I could make some small suggestions from what I have observed, it would be getting back to the basics. Sure, go ahead and implement whatever proposals such as building a MRT and dedicated bus lanes, etc. But I find that the basic facilities and structure of a good road transportation system in Jakarta is lacking. My suggestions are as follows: –

1) Roads must be well maintained. I have seen roads with potholes that have not be repaired for years. Roads like everything else is subject to wear and tear. But the government seems to have the opinion that once it is built, it should last a century without maintenance.

2) Install modern traffic lights. I have seen traffic lights in Jakarta that are so worn out and old, that the only place it should be is in the scrapyard. Traffic lights must be prominent and be clearly visible to motorists and pedestrians.

3) Built pavements for pedestrians. Many times I have seen people and including myself having to force to walk on the roads for the lack of pavements. Pavements ensure the safety of pedestrians. It is especially important on road junctions where you have to wait to cross the roads.

4) Zebra / Pedestrians crossing must be clearly marked prominently on the road and together with light post or traffic lights. A gentle hump could perhaps be made before this crossing to slow down the vehicles.

5) Old and poorly maintained buses and vehicles should be taken off the road. A vehicle that breaks down on the road is a cause for traffic jam.

6) Obey traffic rules. I think this will take a considerate amount of time before you can see results. In Jakarta, it seems that to disregard traffic rules is the right thing to do for both drivers and pedestrians. You don’t need to have so many policemen directing traffic at road junctions if all drivers and pedestrians obey traffic rules. This call for education and strict punishment. Normally a stiff fines will make errant drivers/pedestrians learn quickly.

7) Built a bigger bus stands – I have seen many bus stands in Jakarta that are small and old. Come on, if you want more commuters to use the bus, built a more spacious bus stands. This is a no brainer. A good bus stands should have enough seats and able to shelter at least 20 people when it rains.

8) Built more exit roads alongside main roads that are heavy in traffic. For motorists who are caught in a vicious traffic jams on a main road or highway, having a minor or exit roads will give motorists a choice to get out of this traffic jams and take alternative routes.

9) Install lamp posts in all roads. This is essential in ensuring the safety of drivers and pedestrians in the night.

10) Education – constantly educating the public on road safety is important. Schools are important place to start – to educate the young. Print and TV media will be good channels to reach out to the masses. For those errant and stubborn people ( be it motorists or pedestrians) imposed a fine. When money is taken out from a person’s wallet, he/she will learn things fast.

I do hope that the government and the people can overcome this traffic problems before it gets bigger. For myself and many travellers to Jakarta, it will certainly translate to a more pleasant stay in your city.

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