Sat, 27 Jul 1996

Congestion rates for Jakarta?

Going through traffic in Jakarta will eventually become even worse. Some day, when the planned subway has become operational, private cars taking Jakarta's main thoroughfares will be subject to taxation. This plan is part of the efforts being made to restrict the use of private cars in order to reduce congestion. Anyone driving a private car along certain streets at certain hours of the day will have to show proof that he or she has paid taxes which are known in traffic management circles as congestion rates.

This method of lessening traffic is already practiced in a number of advanced counties. In Singapore, for example, there are the restricted zones, which are usually found around the city center. The hope is that this will discourage people from using private cars in the city center, thereby helping to avoid traffic congestion.

The question is, would congestion rates be effective in Jakarta? Jakarta is built according to a concentric plan. The centers of public activity are located mainly in the central parts of the city. As we can observe, all the major shopping areas as well as the recreation and business areas are spread out in the center of the city. As a consequence, traffic also is concentrated in the city center, which is thus prone to congestion. In other words, traffic jams in Jakarta are not solely the result of an imbalance between the number of cars and streets available; they are also a result of the fact that the planning of the city is not done in an integrated manner.

Another factor -- and this is one which distinguishes us from advanced countries -- is that our public transportation system is allowed to develop in a wild and most inhuman manner. As a result, those who can afford it prefer to use their own private cars rather than any of the public means of transportation that are available.

Assuming that our subway system is in place, will this automatically alleviate the traffic jams? Probably not. The point is that because of the huge investment that is involved, the span of our subway system will be very limited. In the meantime, the growth of centers of public activity in the city center continues rapidly.

Introducing congestion fares without improving our city and traffic planning management and our public transportation system would be ironic. The government is responsible for having drawn up a city plan which invites congestion, yet the citizenry has to carry the burden by paying congestion fares.

-- Republika, Jakarta