Wed, 24 Jul 1996

'Property sector should fund subway project'

JAKARTA (JP): An expert on transportation and urban development proposed yesterday that the private property sector should help meet the shortfall of funds for the subway project planned by the city administration.

Kusbiantoro, of the Institute of Technology, Bandung, was commenting on Jakarta's plans to implement a new system called congestion pricing, which requires all vehicles, except public buses, to pay when using certain roads.

Congestion pricing from Rp 1,500 to Rp 3,000 per vehicle in the first phase of the subway construction -- to begin in 1997 -- is aimed at helping finance the US$1.5 billion subway project.

The project is part of the administration's efforts to provide mass rapid transport for the residents.

The pricing will be effective once a presidential decree on the project is issued. Deputy Governor for Economic and Development Affairs, TB.M. Rais, said Monday that the pricing will also help ease traffic on main thoroughfares.

Other public funds should be raised by reactivating lapsed tax rules, an executive of the subway project's management unit, Slamet Sularno, said earlier.

Kusbiantoro said congestion pricing might either fail to discourage Jakartans from using their cars, or bring in little revenue if many people avoid main thoroughfares.

"A more realistic way to fund the construction and ensure cheap tickets, is to give the property sector a concession of, say, 25 years, to build and operate one route," he said.

He added that decisions on the subway for the route from Blok M, South Jakarta, to Kota, West Jakarta, may be difficult to change now. "But should there be an evaluation, this is what I would propose."

Kusbiantoro is one of the unofficial experts consulted on the project. He said the idea could also be considered for the subway's future east-west routes.

Cross-subsidies from the property sector would raise much more money than congestion pricing and other planned public funding schemes, he said.

Slamet had earlier said that maximizing city revenues, which could reach Rp 868.8 billion by 2025, will enable the city to pay $25 million per year for five years as equity in the MRT project.

Kusbiantoro said yesterday that the property companies could be allowed to set up commercial facilities like supermarkets or apartments on certain areas along the MRT route.

Rents would be high on the route, which could help fund construction. The companies would also be encouraged to get as many passengers as possible on the subway, Kusbiantoro said.

Meanwhile the chairperson of the Indonesian Consumers Foundation, Tini Hadad, said congestion pricing should not be linked to the subway.

"We will get confused as to what the aim of such pricing is," she said.

"The city can just ask for contributions instead of imposing such pricing, as we know traffic jams can only be reduced with better public transport," she said.

City Council Speaker M.H. Ritonga, supported the idea of congestion pricing and called for an immediate end to the current three-in-one system in rush hours.

"The three-in-one system is no longer effective," he said.

The system has not solved congestion and has led to the problem of the "three-in-one joki kids."

Public transport must be improved to reduce the use of private vehicles, which are currently 70 percent of the city's vehicles, he stressed.

Making motorists take turns by odd and even license plates would thus cut private vehicles on the roads by 35 percent daily, he said. He did not comment on introducing congestion pricing linked to the MRT project. (anr/yns)